Professional/Short course Advancing Practice in Clinical Assessment Reasoning and Differential Diagnosis

Entry year
Course code
Professional/Short Course
School of Health and Social Wellbeing
At least 18 days
Taught and practical sessions
Course Director
Susan Conway

40 credit level 6 or level 7 module

Due to the places required from our partnership organisations outweighing the actual places available on this module, it will not be opened up to general applications until six weeks before the start date. Please contact your employer to see if you are eligible to apply; they will supply you with the relevant links to undertake this process.

Page last updated 12 October 2023


You may be able to study these modules at Level 6 (BSc level) or Level 7 (Masters level) depending on your academic circumstances. Please contact the CPD Team or the Module Leader for advice if you are unsure which level would be best for you.

This Advancing Practice in Clinical Assessment, Reasoning and Differential Diagnosis for Urgent, Emergency and Primary Care Practitioners (APiCA) module has been redesigned to incorporate clinical examination skills and practice for urgent and emergency practitioners (40 credits) and clinical reasoning for urgent and emergency practitioners (20 credits). It is now a 40 credit module.

The APiCA module, available at either level 6 (UZWK9N-40-3) or level 7 (UZWK9M-40-M), has been developed to prepare practitioners with a professional registration in healthcare for a clinical role as an advancing autonomous practitioner working within a range of settings such as pre-hospital; community; primary; urgent; or emergency care.

This module will prepare you to take a focused history; examine patients using a systems based approach; request appropriate diagnostic tests; interpret these; make a differential diagnosis and construct an evidenced based management plan for a range of patients and service users presenting with an undifferentiated range of symptoms. This will require demonstration of a higher degree of complex decision-making skills, expertise and knowledge in managing risk and diagnostics effectively and safely in the clinical context and environment within which you work.

On successful completion of this module, you will be able to:

  • Safely assess and evaluate a range of patients using appropriate clinical examination and history taking skills through a wide range of practice-based competencies, underpinned by a critical analysis of the evidence.
  • Make a differential diagnosis based on a high level of knowledge of anatomy and pathophysiology related to an undifferentiated presentation.
  • Make a differential diagnosis, exercise critical clinical judgement and formulate a safe and evidenced based treatment and management plan based on the available evidence of the physical examination.
  • Critically appraise the main decision making theories that contribute to safe clinical judgement and allows the practitioner to support their practice.
  • Critically analyse and synthesise the issues that underpin managing risk and uncertainty, safely within this role.
  • Document and maintain contemporaneous records of clinical findings in line with governance frameworks.
  • Employ person centred communication skills, sensitively and effectively with patients across all age ranges, and their families, paying attention to diversity.

Entry requirements

You must be a registered healthcare professional with the Nursing and Midwifery Council; General Pharmaceutical Health Council; or Health and Care Professions Council.

You must also be working with patients on first presentation in a pre-hopsital, community, primary care, acute or urgent care environment.

In agreement with the Module Leader:

  • You must have access to an identified clinical work environment, through either a permanent or honorary contract, in order to meet the learning outcomes of the module.
  • You must have relevant named clinical mentor within the practice environment for the duration of the module.

Careers / Further study

The Level 6 module can contribute towards:

  • BSc(Hons) Specialist Practice (District Nursing)
  • BSc(Hons) Health and Social Care
  • MSc Specialist Practice (District Nursing)
  • MSc Advanced Practice
  • Professional Development Award

The level 7 module can contribute towards:

  • MSc Specialist Practice (District Nursing)
  • MSc Advanced Practice
  • Professional Development Awards




Indicative content:


  • Appraising evidence for healthcare practice
  • Drivers for healthcare delivery
  • Introduction to use of frameworks for clinical reasoning
  • Systematic history taking and consultation skills
  • Use of advanced physical assessment techniques
  • Risk assessment frameworks for clinical reasoning, documentation and management
  • Clinical findings related to head to toe physical assessment with application to related disease processes
  • Advanced interpersonal skills
  • Review of systems: Cardiovascular examination; Head, neck, ears, eyes, nose and throat examination; Respiratory examination; Abdominal examination; Neurological examination; Musculoskeletal examination
  • Note taking and documentation skills recording contemporaneous accurate notes of examination, diagnosis, treatment and evidenced based management plans
  • Clinical examination skills using a systems based approach with an additional focus on musculoskeletal trauma diagnosis and management.
  • Injury and physical and mental illness management in same day care settings
  • X-ray interpretation

Context of physical assessment and clinical reasoning

  • Complex decision-making and risk management including decision making theory and clinical reasoning approaches including the appropriate use of clinical decision making protocols
  • Legal and ethical issues concerning autonomous practice in 24 hour settings and in relation to scope of practice within current professional frameworks
  • Making safe and appropriate referrals
  • Assessment and management of patients with undifferentiated presentations across the life span
  • Evidence-based practice and clinical guidelines.


Learning and Teaching

A variety of approaches will be used which may include e-learning, lectures, practical sessions, seminars, experts from practice, analysis of case studies, problem-based learning, online patient scenarios and self-directed study.

Supervised physical assessment practice sessions undertaken throughout the module.

Study time

There is a total of 400 hours to be allocated:

  • scheduled learning and teaching study hours - 96 hours
  • independent study - 229 hours
  • placement study - 75 hours.


Assessment of this module comprises the following:

1. Practice Competency Document

Successful completion of identified competencies. Learners will include clinical logs demonstrating evidence-based critical reflection of different episodes of care to inform their achievement of competencies. The practice competency document will be assessed in practice by the identified mentor. The assessment will allow the student to demonstrate developing practice and autonomous clinical decision making.

2. An Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE)

The student will be expected to take a clinical history from a standardised patient and perform the relevant clinical examination. The student will be expected to suggest a provisional diagnosis and a safe management plan relative to autonomous practice. An oral discussion will follow to allow the student to demonstrate autonomous clinical decision making.

Formative assessment:

  • Feedback will be provided by formative OSCE within the practical sessions.
  • Formative assessment will take place through clinical mentorship and feedback.


Study facilities

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Get a feel for the Health Professions facilities we have on offer here from wherever you are.

Prices and dates

Supplementary fee information

Please visit full fee information page to see the price brackets for our modules.

Please note: Priority will be given to applications received through our funded educational contracts. Places on this module will be limited for applications received outside of this funding. Please check with your employer as a funded contract place may still be available to support your learning.


Please click on the Apply Now button to view dates.

How to apply

How to apply

Please click on the Apply Now button to apply for your CPD module, which you can take as a stand-alone course or as part of an undergraduate or postgraduate (Masters level) programme.

Please note: Priority will be given to applications received through our funded educational contracts. Unfortunately no places will be available on this course for applications received outside of this funding. Please check with your employer as a funded contract place may still be available to support your learning.

Extra information

If the course you are applying for is fully online or blended learning, please note that you are expected to provide your own headsets/microphones.

For further information