SHarPS: Student Healthcare Professionals Study

College professor teaching medical and nursing students with spine modelStudents of today, healthcare professionals of tomorrow.


The delivery of healthcare services in the U.K. is occurring in a rapidly changing environment within which the role of the various professional groups is continually evolving. In addition traditional career trajectories are changing with, for example, increasing evidence of part time working, portfolio working, working abroad or in the non-NHS sector. 

Nationally, it is recognised that we need a better understanding of the ‘professionals-of-the-future’ including aspects such as their aspirations, determinants of career choices and willingness to adopt new modes of care delivery, if accurate predictions of workforce levels and capacity are to be made.  At the same time, as educators responsible for training the healthcare professionals of the future, the more we know about our students the better able we are to support them as they progress through their programmes of study. 

As the University of Birmingham delivers eight large healthcare professional and science programmes (biomedical sciences, dentistry, hygiene and therapy, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, physician associates and physiotherapy) it is in a unique position to develop research into healthcare professional education, training and careers.

Study objectives

SHarPS aims to provide the foundation for the development of a high quality programme of research focusing on student experiences of the University of Birmingham healthcare professional programmes. Data collected through the SHarPS has the potential to: 

  • Facilitate improvement of programme delivery, educational climate and student experience;
  • Provide knowledge relating to the relationship between student characteristics, attitudes and beliefs, and various measures of progression and performance within and across programmes;
  • Provide detailed knowledge of the characteristics of student intakes within the context of widening access to higher education;
  • Provide information pertinent to predicting NHS workforce capacity and training issues in the new NHS environment;
  • Identify areas where further research is required (e.g. explanatory qualitative investigations of performance related observations);
  • Provide relevant sampling frameworks for future educational research.

Research plan

As the first stage we are establishing a database on our prospective students which initially captures cross-sectional data on admission to the University but will subsequently, over-time, capture longitudinal data as they transition through their programme, to graduation and subsequent employment. 

The collection of these data provides an epidemiologically robust platform to report both simple demographics and other characteristics (e.g. career aspirations, understanding of roles, why students chose to come to Birmingham? etc.).  It will also be possible to compare and contrast across the seven programmes, and for such a dataset to act as a sampling frame for more analytic and/or interventional studies (e.g. qualitative enquiry or comparison of different ways of teaching students a practical technique).