HFMA Academy: tutorial value

02 March 2020

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Paul Dillon RobinsonThe more that students engage in the academy live sessions, the more they will get out of them and the better chances they will have of successfully achieving the qualification. That’s the view of Paul Dillon-Robinson, a tutor on the Managing the healthcare business module of the HFMA’s advanced qualifications in healthcare business and finance.

He believes that the online tutorials are a key element in helping students on the masters-level course to get the most out of the material. There are 12 formal sessions in total – one for each topic covered in each of the 10 weeks of study, an introductory session and a tutorial to support students during the preparation of their final assessment.

‘My key role is to help them think more broadly than just what they are reading in the study material,’ he says. ‘I try to illustrate it, drawing on my own experience and encourage them to think about it in the context of their own experience and roles.’

Mr Dillon-Robinson’s experience is extensive. He spent 17 years in the NHS working in internal audit, including eight years running South Coast Audit (now TIAA). He also had a prominent role nationally in promoting good governance and effective audit committees and was chair of the HFMA’s Corporate Governance and Audit Committee. After leaving the NHS, he moved to the House of Commons, where he spent nine years as director of internal audit and risk.

Now working as a consultant, he balances his role as an HFMA tutor – and soon-to-be skills coach on the association’s level four accountancy apprenticeship – with non-executive roles at the Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, where he chairs the finance and performance committee, and at the Rural Payments Agency.

With his own MBA achieved through the Open University, Mr Dillon-Robinson recognises the motivation to return to study and enhance career prospects. ‘For finance people taking the advanced diplomas, it can be about seeing the wider management issues, while clinicians are often looking to get more comfortable with the business and financial aspects that can help them in broader management roles.

‘It is great when you are there for a lightbulb moment, a clinician suddenly “understanding risk management” and realising how they can engage more effectively back at their trust, for example,’ he says. ‘The focus of the qualification is often not on the how something is done, but why – and that can be an interesting challenge for many of the students from various backgrounds.’

Mr Dillon-Robinson acknowledges that the return to study can be challenging at first. People need to work out their own balance between work, home and study and get a feel for what needs to be read in detail and where a summary understanding is sufficient. Each student will be different and he likes to talk to each student individually upfront to understand their motivations and learning styles.

‘The academy live sessions are designed as tutorials not just a teach-in,’ he says. ‘I want people engaged, thinking through the practical issues, for example, in embedding a whistleblowing policy that will actually work in practice. It is great when the students develop their own virtual networks to support each other through their studies.’

Mr Dillon-Robinson has written some modules for the HFMA qualifications. All the modules are regularly reviewed and rewritten, where necessary, to take account of both student and tutor feedback. ‘We are refining all the time and that’s also the case for the tutorials where we try to use different examples than those used in the study material to illustrate key aspects of the topic. It’s a challenge for me as well as the learners.’

Feedback suggests that the tutorials are popular with many of the students – an opportunity to test what they’ve learnt, ask questions and think about issues from different angles. ‘It’s about getting the most out of the material and I’m convinced there is a huge correlation between engagement in the sessions and ultimate success in completing the relevant module,’ he says.

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