FE News | Heriot-Watt University and Napier University join forces to accelerate health technology innovation and improve patient outcomes

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A first-of-its-kind research collaboration between Heriot-Watt University and Edinburgh Napier University is bringing together engineering and nursing students to develop cutting-edge health technologies tailored to address real clinical needs.

The Edinburgh-based universities have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) formalising a joint programme which will see Heriot-Watt engineering students visit Edinburgh Napier’s specialised clinical simulation facilities to gain first-hand understanding of real healthcare scenarios and challenges.

These learnings, together with insights from Edinburgh Napier’s nursing students into patient needs and care, will drive collaborative projects focused on co-designing novel health solutions that target clinical issues. 

“Nurses are an untapped reservoir of innovative solutions for the health and care sector,” explains Cathal Breen, Professor of Simulation and Clinical Skills at Edinburgh Napier, which is Scotland’s only university to offer pre-registration training in all four nursing specialties and midwifery.

He adds: “However, the health sector workforce is not currently incentivised to come up and come forward with solutions. In our new agreement with Heriot-Watt, our students will identify potentially suitable clinical problems and work with engineering students at Heriot-Watt to design solutions to real-life clinical problems. It is hugely exciting.”

Maïwenn Kersaudy-Kerhoas is a Professor in Microfluidic Engineering at Heriot-Watt University and the lead academic for the university’s new global research institute in Health and Care Technologies. She said: “It has already proved to be a fantastic and fun learning experience for students from both the nursing and engineering programmes.

This collaboration will ensure an excellent student experience and we are very enthusiastic about the interface between nursing and engineering. Nurses are the closest to patient needs on a daily basis, by championing this first-hand knowledge and expertise, we enable nurses to co-create and help deliver innovation. Alongside this, our engineering students benefit from detailed real-world feedback on their health and care engineering concepts. The professional advice of nursing practitioners and their network of patient engagement opportunities is invaluable as we continue to create the health and care technologies needed for the future.”

Professor Breen adds: “While nursing students are exposed to engineering innovation, when they are given the opportunity to contribute to development they are empowered to innovate in their future career.There is no doubt that technology is going to play a vital role in delivering health care solutions in the future.”

“In September, Edinburgh Napier is launching a new Masters programme for clinicians trying to understand the opportunities and challenges that new technologies will bring – The MSc Clinical Healthcare Technology. This MoU with Heriot-Watt is another link in the chain to ensure we equip the UK’s future healthcare professionals with the skills, experiences, and opportunities they need to sustain a world-leading healthcare service.”

One of the Heriot-Watt engineering students involved in the pilot, Sree Choyathala, said: 

“Our visit to Edinburgh Napier University marked a significant milestone for our team, allowing us to conduct a successful test of our project prototype and derive essential conclusions. The impact of this experience resonated profoundly in the preparation of our design report, and we are sincerely grateful to Professor Kersaudy-Kerhoas for facilitating such a remarkable opportunity.”

Stacey Jenowska, Edinburgh Napier nursing student, said: 

“I found this activity very interesting and useful. It was great to hear about and see so many creative ideas on ways to improve the care we provide to patients. Going forward I feel this will help shape the support and care we can provide to patient groups of all ages.”

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