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The Post-Graduate Diploma Specialist Nursing (with pathways) prepares Nurses for Leadership roles in Specialist Nursing.


The Post-Graduate Diploma Specialist Nursing (with pathways) is aimed at preparing Nurses for Leadership roles in a field of Nursing of their choice. There are a range of Pathways to suit all Nurses including District Nursing, Mental Health Nursing, Learning Disability Nursing, and Community Children’s Nursing. The full range of Adult Nursing Specialisms include, Palliative Care, Stroke Care, Diabetes Care and Emergency Care.

The programme leads to more than one qualification. You will obtain a degree from Ulster University and a professional qualification from the United Kingdom Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). Students of District Nursing also obtain a further professional qualification in Nurse Prescribing.

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About this course

In this section


The term, ‘Specialist Nursing’ refers to, the exercising of higher levels of judgment and decision-making in relation to the nursing care of individuals, families and communities. As a future Leader you must display this higher level of decision-making across four areas; clinical practice, care and programme management, clinical practice development and clinical practice leadership.

At Ulster we focus on developing you as a Leader and help you achieve academic and professional competence in all these areas. This programme is a 50-50 programme, meaning that 50% of the programme is university-based and 50% based in the practice learning setting. In the Practice Learning setting you will be allocated to a Sign-Off Mentor. This Sign-Off Mentor who is an established Specialist Nurse and Leader in Clinical Care will supervise you throughout the Programme. He/she will assess you and sign off your competencies prior to recording the professional qualification with the NMC. You will also be allocated to a Pathway Leader who will supervise your academic development and provide support throughout.

The academic component of the programme consists of a four 30-credit modules.

Research Module

Leadership Module

+ Two Specialist Focus Modules, depending on your selected pathway.

District Nursing students have an additional 20 credits to complete in order to evidence outcomes related to Nurse Prescribing.

See Overall Course Structure:


Full-time students are expected to attend the University for at least 2 days per week, with the remaining time allocated to Practice Learning. Full-time students are normally time-tabled for Mondays and Fridays.

Part-time studentsattend the University for 1 day per week during Term-Time. In Semester One this is normally a Monday and in Semester Two a Wednesday. Some Pathways have additional days ( i.e Emergency Care) but you will be informed of this at Induction. Practice Learning is organised on days that suit you and your Sign-off Mentor.

All studentsare expected to attend all classes associated with the programme and be punctual and regular in attendance. Attendance will be monitored both at the University and in the Practice Learning setting and Employers are informed of all absences.

Start dates

  • September 2018
How to apply


Here is a guide to the subjects studied on this course.

Courses are continually reviewed to take advantage of new teaching approaches and developments in research, industry and the professions. Please be aware that modules may change for your year of entry. The exact modules available and their order may vary depending on course updates, staff availability, timetabling and student demand. Please contact the course team for the most up to date module list.

In this section

Year one

Clinical practice development and research for Specialist Practice

Year: 1

This module provides the critical skills necessary for the specialist nurses to use research, in order to make informed decisions about clinical practice and therefore enhance nursing and improve the quality of care. Students will gain a greater understanding and confidence in their engagement with the research process and its application to inform evidence-based practice. Assessment is by 100% coursework.

Diabetes Type 1 - Enhancing Lives

Year: 1

This module is optional

In this level 7 module students will extend their knowledge of Type 1 diabetes and use this to understand the role of the diabetes nurse specialist in enhancing opportunities for patients to successfully manage their diabetes. The contribution of other disciplines towards understanding the needs of people with diabetes will be explored. A range of teaching and learning methods will be used. Assessment is by coursework.

Stroke - Enhancing Lives

Year: 1

This module is optional

This module provides students with the theoretical and clinical underpinnings of specialist stroke nursing, and with the previous module and remaining modules of this course, it prepares students to promote and provide high quality care to people with stroke and their carers. It appraises the specialist nursing role in light of the social, psychological, physical and cultural impact of stroke.

Assessment is by coursework.

Advanced Health Assessment

Year: 1

This module is optional

This level 7 module provides an opportunity for students to develop and enhance the knowledge base and practice of health assessment, in order that appropriate interventions and management can occur. Students will begin to develop their assessment skills under the guidance of a mentor during this module. Assessment is 100% coursework.

Understanding End of Life Care.

Year: 1

This module is optional

This module aims to facilitate specialist nursing students develop their knowledge in palliative and end of life care, enabling them to gain a wider strategic understanding in order for them to provide quality person-centred care. It emphasises the principles and philosophy of palliative and end of life care and the need for an inter-disciplinary approach to service delivery. The module incorporates a variety of teaching approaches. Method of assessment is 100% coursework.

Care of People with Minor Emergencies

Year: 1

This module is optional

This module will provide the student with the scientific knowledge and analytical techniques to provide safe and effective care to patients presenting with undifferentiated and undiagnosed minor emergencies. The module is assessed by written examination.

Year two

Specialist Practice Qualification (SPQ) Portfolio

Year: 2

All Specialist Nursing Practice Programmes at Ulster require students to complete a 75-day practice learning period where they work under the supervision of a Nursing Midwifery Council approved Sign-Off Mentor and a University Lecturer known as a Pathway Leader. This period of Practice Learning constitutes 50% of the programme at both undergraduate and post graduate level. Furthermore this practice learning period runs alongside the theoretical part of the programme, one year for full time students and two years for part-time students. Course regulations state that the academic award is wholly dependent on completion of the Specialist Practice Qualification (SPQ) Portfolio.

Leadership for Specialist Nursing

Year: 2

As confirmed by recent major inquiries, there is a need for more effective leadership in healthcare settings. This module aims to facilitate specialist nursing students develop knowledge and skills in leadership, enabling them gain a wider strategic understanding in order to become effective leaders within an interdisciplinary team. Learning and teaching methods include lectures, seminars and an opportunity to explore personal leadership in a practice learning setting. Assessment is by 100% examination.

Applied Health Assessment

Year: 2

This module is optional

This module builds on Advanced Health Assessment and Principles of Health Assessment and is undertaken during the last semester of the Nurse Practitioner pathway. It is clinically focused and aims to consolidate the knowledge and skills practiced in the clinical environment throughout the duration of the programme, under the guidance of the mentor. Assessment is 100% examination.

Diabetes Type 2 - Enhancing Lives

Year: 2

This module is optional

In this level 7 module students will extend their knowledge of diabetes and use this to understand the role of the diabetes nurse specialist in enhancing opportunities for patients to successfully manage their diabetes. The contribution of other disciplines towards understanding the needs of people with diabetes will be explored. A range of teaching and learning methods will be used. Students will be assessed by course work.

Collaborative Stroke Care

Year: 2

This module is optional

This module provides students with a thorough understanding of the theoretical and clinical aspects of TIA and stroke which underpin specialist nursing practice. Collaborative working with patients and families, inter-professional and inter-agency practice informed by research, clinical guidelines, policy and strategies are explored in the delivering of person-centred care from stroke onset into the longer term. Assessment is by coursework.

Advanced Pathophysiology

Year: 2

This module is optional

This post graduate module provides specialist nurses who are taking the Nurse Practitioner pathway with an opportunity to apply knowledge of physiological disorders both at a systems and cellular level, to clinical practice. A problem -solving approach using clinical cases is used to illustrate how knowledge of pathophysiology is applied. Assessment is by coursework consisting of a class test and a case study.

Managing Symptoms in Palliative Care

Year: 2

This module is optional

This module aims to facilitate specialist nursing students to develop knowledge in advanced symptom management. It emphasises the palliation of pain and other symptoms and the application of an evidence based holistic person centred approach. The module incorporates a variety of teaching approaches. Assessment is by 100% coursework.

Care of People with Trauma or Serious Illness

Year: 2

This module is optional

This module facilitates students in the development of scientific knowledge and specialist practice skills that enable students to care for people that present with multiple needs resulting from trauma or serious illness. Assessment is by coursework, examination, OSCE and presentation.

Entry conditions

We recognise a range of qualifications for admission to our courses. In addition to the specific entry conditions for this course you must also meet the University’s General Entrance Requirements.

In this section

Entry Requirements

Satisfy the University’s general entry requirements; and

  • Hold a degree in Nursing or equivalent or demonstrate their ability to
  • Undertake the course through the accreditation of prior experiential learning (APEL).
  • Hold current registration with the NMC and have completed a period of experience as a registered nurse to have consolidated pre-registration outcomes.
  • Have the support of an employer for 75 days Practice Learning and the name of an appropriately qualified Sign-Off Mentor in the Practice Learning setting.
  • Have competency in written and spoken English (International students are required to have IELTS 7.0, see additional information on English Langauge Requirements).
  • Applicants for the District Nursing Pathway(+ Self -funded students) are required to complete Access NI Checks.

English Language Requirements

English language requirements for international applicants
The minimum requirement for this course is Academic IELTS 7.0 with no element below 7.0.

Ulster recognises a number of other English language tests and comparable IELTS equivalent scores.

Teaching and learning assessment

Teaching methods on the programmes are innovative and intearctive. Clinical experts and Users of Health Services and\or Independent Sector are invited to teach students about current practice, developments in the field and personal experiences of specialist nursing services.

Seminars enable students to take responsibility for leading discussions on practice based issues and reviewing the current literature in their field. Tutorial sessions enable small group work to be carried out that facilitates a specific focus for particular specialisms. Skills classes, role plays, use of table-top scenario simulation (including computerised manikin) and video play back are used where appropriate to develop skills in a range of professional interventions.

All of the above methods encourage active student participation and empower individual students to recognise that as experienced nurses each have a wealth of experience that can be utilised to illustrate the points being made in classes.

Assessment is seen as crucial part of the learning process. A range of assessment methods including OSCEs, Reflective and Academic Essays, Case Studies and Portfolio are used. Patients and families are involved in the assessment process.

Exemptions and transferability

Due to the professional requirements of this programme, normally no exemptions are permitted. In saying this, District Nursing students who have recently completed the V100 Nurse Prescribing and are active prescribers are permitted to apply for exemption.

Careers & opportunities

In this section

Career options

Graduates of this programme take up posts as Specialist Nurses. Most are in Team Leadershippositions. There is 100% Employability associated with this programme.

Work placement / study abroad

All students must complete 75 days Practice Learning in an aproved setting. Students must have direct interaction with patients and families during this period. Supervision by an expert Specialist Nurse (Sign-Off Mentor) will occur during Practice Learning. A Specialist Practice Qualification (SPQ) Portfolio is required to evidence achievement of professional outcomes.

Professional recognition

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)

Recognised by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) for the purpose of recording as Specialist Practice Qualification (SPQ) (child)

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)

Recognised by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) for the purpose of recording as Specialist Practice Qualification (SPQ) (adult)

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)

Recognised by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) for the purpose of registration as a qualified nurse (learning disabilities).

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)

Recognised by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) for the purpose of recording as Specialist Practice Qualification (SPQ) (mental health)

Academic profile

The Post-Graduate Diploma Specialist Nursing (with Pathways) is a recognised academic and professional qualification across Europe. The quality of the education is high as is the academic expectation on you as a student. You will receive the latest ideas on academic writing, research and critical analysis. The quality of learning resources at Ulster University are very high and the support of students is also good.

All of the Specialist Nursing Teaching Team at the University are established authors and researchers and provide consultancy to numerous organisations in the UK and Ireland. At the end of the programme you have automatic entry to our MSc Nursing. A further 60 credits (Research Dissertation) will get you an MSc Nursing.


How to apply Request a prospectus

Places on this programme are normally commissioned by the Department of Health (DoH) in Northern Ireland. Students wishing to apply for a DoH Commissioned place should contact the Practice Education Teamin their Health and Social Care Trust. The HSCT will manage your application.

Those who are not eligible for DoH Commissioned places, must apply via the University Web Page. This is known as the self-funded route and will involve an interview with the Course Director and\or the Pathway Leader. Entry via the self-funded route is also subject to availability of a Sign-Off Mentor and 75 Days Practice Learning.

Start dates

  • September 2018

Fees and funding

In this section

Fees (total cost)

Important notice - fees information Fees illustrated are based on 18/19 entry and are subject to an annual increase. Correct at the time of publishing. Terms and conditions apply. Additional mandatory costs are highlighted where they are known in advance. There are other costs associated with university study.
Visit our Fees pages for full details of fees

Northern Ireland & EU:

£9,120.00  Scholarships available

Scholarships, awards and prizes

Philip Goodeve-Docker Award for District Nursing

Margaret Devlin Award for Diabetes Nursing

Additional mandatory costs

Access NI (enhanced disclosure) is an additional cost for Self-Funded students.

Tuition fees and costs associated with accommodation, travel (including car parking charges), and normal living are a part of university life.

Where a course has additional mandatory expenses we make every effort to highlight them. These may include residential visits, field trips, materials (e.g. art, design, engineering) inoculations, security checks, computer equipment, uniforms, professional memberships etc.

We aim to provide students with the learning materials needed to support their studies. Our libraries are a valuable resource with an extensive collection of books and journals as well as first-class facilities and IT equipment. Computer suites and free wifi is also available on each of the campuses.

There will be some additional costs to being a student which cannot be itemised and these will be different for each student. You may choose to purchase your own textbooks and course materials or prefer your own computer and software. Printing and binding may also be required. There are additional fees for graduation ceremonies, examination resits and library fines. Additional costs vary from course to course.

Students choosing a period of paid work placement or study abroad as part of their course should be aware that there may be additional travel and living costs as well as tuition fees.

Please contact the course team for more information.


Course Director: Pat Deeny

T: +44 (0)28 7167 5708

M: +44 (0)75 9718 8034



For Admissions queries email:

T: +44(0)28 9036 6098

For more information visit

Faculty of Life and Health Sciences

School of Nursing


I have been a registered nurse for 28 years and I wanted to develop knowledge and skills in District Nursing. The Postgrad Diploma in Specialist Practice will enable me to develop the professional attributes needed to learn and prepare for practice.

Deirdre McCrory

Belfast Health and Social Care Trust


I have been registered nurse for 7 years and I have recently undertaken a Post Grad Specialist Practice in Emergency Care. I feel that this helps me to develop my knowledge and skills within my practice setting by providing continuity of care via assessing, diagnosing, implementing and evaluating the care for my patients. I also feel that it helps me ensure that the holistic care model is used in providing care to all patients within Emergency Care.

Donal Murray,

Charge Nurse,

Belfast Health Social Care Trust.

I qualified as an RMN in 2004 and maintained links with the University through postgraduate study which, to date, has included a PG Diploma in Specialist Practice and currently, I am undertaking an MSc in Specialist Nursing Practice. My studies have certainly enhanced my professional development and have also had a positive impact on colleagues, through the continued fostering of a positive learning culture within mental health nursing practice.

Martina Doherty

Western Health and Social care Trust