But for Keatch, the main strength of the Dundee department is that the universities’ mechanical engineers are taking a leading role in developing new forms of medicine.
Ninewells hospital – the biggest teaching hospital in Europe – is a leader in the techniques of keyhole surgery, and the engineering skills of Keatch’s department are crucial – providing medical instruments tailored to the surgeons’ needs.
“The surgeons tell us what they want to do and we develop the medical instruments that allow them to do it. We bring a different way of thinking and a different way of solving problems. Students can see the new instruments they have come up with being used in clinical trials and that is very exciting for them. We are also giving them the skills they will need in the workplace.” Dundee started three new postgrad courses last year in the cutting-edge field of biological mechanical engineering, which includes tissue engineering.
“We are building robots for surgery and new body parts. It may sound very science fiction, but this is all part of what is called biomechanics.”
The department is part of Dundee’s new £10m Institute of Medical Science and Technology, which brings together life sciences, medics and engineers under one roof and encourages them to work together.
Nursing at Thames Valley
Listening and learning seems to be the approach that has enabled Thames Valley University to leapfrog to second place in the nursing table this year, up from eighth last year, while the university as a whole lies in 69th place. It’s not only the students who have been learning to listen. The department itself has adjusted its methods, thanks to feedback from health trusts.
The dean, Kate Guyon, explains: “We have changed our approach to working with our partners. Their feedback is being used much more to evaluate the curriculum.
“We had some feedback from a mental-health trust. They had a real issue about mental-health nurses not understanding the basics of patient care. This is going back to our core values. Student nurses need to understand that they have to listen very carefully to their clients, because if they don’t do that they won’t be as good at responding to their needs.
“Another partner said that they didn’t feel the students knew enough about dealing with unconscious patients, so we have put more about that into the curriculum.
“We are very focused on what the students will need in their practice. Students still have to write essays, but when they are assessed it is focused on their work as a real nurse or a real midwife in a practical situation.”
Student nurses spend half their time at college and half in real-work situations, but Guyon also said that at early stages in the course the students were building up their confidence by working with very sophisticated mannequins in simulated situations and that the college was also trying to help individual students more effectively with any problems they might have.