Credit points


Campus offering

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  • Term Mode
  • ACU Term 1Online Unscheduled
  • ACU Term 3Online Unscheduled



Unit rationale, description and aim

The health care setting, including acute, sub-acute and community based care, is becoming more complex. Registered nurses are expected to be able to respond and care for clients with higher acuity and complex care needs while ensuring person centred care is being provided. The complexity of health care is reflected in the number of specialist care areas which have arisen in health care settings. These specialist areas require registered nurses to have specialist nursing knowledge and skills which are underpinned by scientific knowledge and evidence based practice. 

This unit is required by students to support their development of the foundational scientific knowledge that underpins selected areas of specialist practice. Specific knowledge in the areas of bioscience, epidemiology and growth and development relevant to the student's selected specialist area, will be explored in relation to its application to specialist nursing practice and in the context of typical healthcare scenarios.

The aim of this unit is to provide students with scientific knowledge that is relevant to their specialist setting in order to support their specialist nursing practice.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

Learning Outcome NumberLearning Outcome DescriptionRelevant Graduate Capabilities
LO1Analyse epidemiological concepts and the impact of health determinants on the development of diseaseGC1, GC4, GC7, GC8, GC9, GC10, GC11, GC12
LO2Differentiate anatomical, physiological, developmental and pathophysiological concepts related to common health problems in their area of specialist practiceGC2, GC3, GC7, GC10, GC12
LO3Determine pathophysiological factors or altered development that underpin the diagnosis, treatment and management of common health problems experienced by healthcare consumers in their area of specialist practiceGC1, GC2, GC3, GC7, GC11
LO4Reflect on the experience of illness in relation to the person, group, family and communityGC2, GC3, GC5, GC9, GC11
LO5Evaluate the science underpinning management (pharmacotherapy, non-pharmacotherapy) of health conditions in the specialty settingGC1, GC2, GC3, GC9, GC10, GC11


Topics will include:

  • Concepts of human and lifespan development
  • Theories of ageing
  • Epidemiology
  • Influences on population health
  • Environmental factors
  • Social determinants of health
  • Community factors
  • Bioscience concepts underlying common health problems:
  • The cellular environment
  • Homeostatic balance
  • Action Potential and Nerve Transmission
  • Common Health Problems
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Cardiac
  • Respiratory
  • Neurological
  • Endocrine
  • Renal
  • Gastrointestinal
  • Pathophysiology
  • Shock
  • Common health problems
  • Physiology of Pain
  • Pain theories
  • Pain pathways
  • Pain assessment
  • Pain management
  • Non-pharmacological management
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacokinetics
  • Pharmacodynamics
  • Polypharmacy
  • Anaesthetic agents
  • Cardiovascular Medications
  • Holistic health assessment skills
  • Nursing Assessment
  • Integration of anatomy, physiology, development and pathophysiology
  • Diagnosis
  • Treatment
  • Management
  • Care of self in the specialty environment

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit is offered in online mode and uses an active and collaborative learning approach to support students in the exploration of the scientific knowledge that underpins specialist nursing practice. Students are encouraged to actively engage with the content through readings and reflections, e-learning activities and opportunities to collaborate with peers to enhance their learning. This can involve, but is not limited to, online discussion forums, chat rooms, guided reading and webinar sessions. Students are required to complete online activities and assessments to demonstrate the application of knowledge. The inclusive and flexible learning and teaching strategy used in this unit allows for linking of scientific knowledge to specialty nursing practice, and the development of shared meanings through online experiential reflections and discussions.

Through an online learning platform, students will have the opportunity to reflect on the complexity of specialty nursing practice as it relates to concepts of lifespan development, epidemiology, anatomy, pathophysiology and pharmacology. Online learning in this unit will be supported by the provision of opportunities for students to attend online webinar sessions that allow synchronous exchange of information and facilitate responses to queries generated by students in relation to unit content. For those unable to participate in synchronous webinar sessions, recordings will be available.

Assessment strategy and rationale

In order to successfully complete this unit, a minimum combined total grade of all assessment tasks of 50% is required to pass this unit.

The assessment strategy used in this unit encourages the progressive development of students’ scientific knowledge and skills that are necessary for the student to be able to deliver quality and safe care within a specialty setting. In order to develop the knowledge and skills required to achieve the learning outcomes and Graduate Attributes, students first demonstrate knowledge through creation of a narrated presentation that addresses how social determinants of health and negative lifestyle behaviours impact on pathophysiological changes that occur at the cellular level. Students are expected to work collaboratively and this is the focus of the first assessment which requires discussion forum participation. This understanding is then further developed in the final assessment task where students are required to apply learned scientific knowledge in the presentation and scientific analysis of a patient case study. The final assessment also includes a self-reflection on the learnings gained from the unit. The assessment tasks for this unit are designed for students to demonstrate achievement of each learning outcome.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning Outcomes

Digital Presentation

Enables students to analyse epidemiological concepts and the impact of health determinants on the development of disease, and differentiate scientific knowledge related to their specialty practice area. This is a collaborative activity where students will be required to participate in a discussion forum to synthesise ideas.


LO1, LO2

Case Study

Enables students to apply learned scientific knowledge and demonstrate critical thinking skills, analysis and synthesis of evidence in relation to a common health problem in their specialty practice area.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5

Representative texts and references

Within each learning module, students will find links to various chapters from the following texts. Most of these books are available as eBooks accessible through the ACU library.

Brown, D., Edwards, H., Buckley, T. C. T., & Aitken, R. L. (2020). Lewis's medical-surgical nursing: assessment and management of clinical problems (Australia and New Zealand fifth edition. ed.). Elsevier.

Bullock, S., & Hales, M. (2019). Principles of pathophysiology (Second edition. ed.). Pearson Australia.

Calleja, P., Theobald, K., Harvey, T., & Estes, M. E. Z. (2020). Estes health assessment & physical examination (Third Australian and New Zealand edition. ed.). Cengage Learning.

Hoffmann, T., Bennett, S., & Del Mar, C. (2017). Evidence-based practice across the health professions (3rd ed.). Elsevier Australia.

Huether, S. E., & McCance, K. L. (2020). Understanding pathophysiology (Seventh edition. ed.). Elsevier.

Knights, K. M., Darroch, S., Rowland, A., & Bushell, M. (2023). Pharmacology for health professionals (6th edition. ed.). Elsevier Australia.

Norris, T. L. (2019). Porth's pathophysiology: concepts of altered health states (Tenth edition. ed.). Wolters Kluwer.

Patton, K. T., & Thibodeau, G. A. (2019). Anatomy & physiology ([Adapted International edition]. ed.). Elsevier.

Rogers, J. L., & Brashers, V. L. (2022). McCance & Huether’s pathophysiology: the biologic basis for disease in adults and children (J. L. Rogers, Ed.; Ninth edition.). Elsevier.

Taylor, K., & Guerin, P. (2019). Health care and Indigenous Australians: cultural safety in practice (Third edition. ed.). Macmillan International Higher Education.

Recommended specialty textbooks will be listed in Canvas.

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