Master’s degree students building capacity in health and social care

Given the national and European level pressures within health and social care sector for cost reduction, and high quality of care, leadership and management competencies are of critical importance. The Erasmus+ funded DOCMAN project aims to strengthen and develop health and social care leadership competencies in cooperation with four participating universities: Charles University (Czech Republic), Edinburgh Napier University (Scotland), Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences (Germany), and LAB University of Applied Sciences (Finland).

In order to assess and develop the required leadership competencies the project delivered three modules for master’s students studying health and social care management at faculties or schools of health and social care, and business. The third module was completed in February 2020 in multidisciplinary cooperation. As part of the module the project organized an intensive week at Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences. From LAB University of Applies Sciences 10 master’s degree students participated in the module and the intensive week. During the intensive week the students worked in international teams and created capacity building solutions for different health and social care services. The capacity building solutions focused on competence management, customer involvement and voices in childcare, follow-up project for patients with drug, alcohol or other addiction, and staff replacement in short-term lack of staff like sickness leave.

Photo 1. Finnish students presenting capacity building in child care service process (Photo: Päivi Huotari)
Photo 1. Finnish students presenting capacity building in child care service process (Photo: Päivi Huotari)

The main result of all solutions was that capacity building is something all stakeholders need to be involved in. In order to resolve the lack of present and future resources in health and social care, we need innovative solutions from professionals and managers, and most important, we need the hear the voices and acknowledge the capacities and competencies of our clients.

Students’ feedback

Participating students represented four universities and several countries.

Photo 2. Happy participants in the end of the intensive week (Photo: Päivi Huotari)
Photo 2. Happy participants in the end of the intensive week (Photo: Päivi Huotari)

Students’ feedback was collected with Padlet (electronic wall) and a Webropol survey. The ten Finnish students were very satisfied especially with the intensive week and the international atmosphere of learning. They thought the intensive week with lectures and presentations was useful and inspiring. It was important for them that they can apply the learning into their own work and service practices. However, the best part were the discussions with students from other countries. They understood that health and social care have similar challenges regardless of the country. At the same time, they recognized differences in national and professional culture which was seen in managerial culture as well. The Finnish student group cohesion was strong although most of them didn’t know each other beforehand. The students represented four different health and social care master’s degree programs.

Electronic tool for one’s leadership competency assessment

The next phase in the DOCMAN project is to finalize a digital, interactive leadership competency framework and assessment tool for health and social care managers. The competency framework is based on the research conducted by the four participating universities. The framework aims to support a continuum of individual’s competence development as it will allow users to assess their leadership competencies and identify areas of development. It is also possible to reassess one’s own competency after periods of development. In addition, a manager’s own supervisor will be able to comment and give feedback when agreed and needed.


Päivi Huotari works as a Principal Lecturer at LAB University of Applied Sciences. She is the project manager of the DOCMAN project.

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