Making Student Supervision Suit You

When you agree to have a student, you will be agreeing to provide clinical education for a full clinical block or placement. Because workforce dynamics, caseloads and contexts vary so much across the broad occupational therapy spectrum, there is now greater flexibility in the style of clinical placement experiences on offer.

Did you know that if you are interested in providing a student clinical placement, you can choose the specific placement style and conditions that you and your workplace offer? Click below for a summary of the various placement models that are available to you. You will also find details of the potential flexible arrangements you may be able to negotiate with your local university. There are options to suit almost any workplace or organisation. If in doubt, just give your local university a call to discuss the placement model and specific needs you may have...

People tend to be most familiar with the traditional one-on-one "apprenticeship" placement model of clinical education. There is, however, a variety of other placement model options available to you. There is currently no 'gold standard' model of clinical education, and the decision about which model to use depends on a variety of factors involving yourself, your organisation, the role you perform, etc. Below is a brief summary of the placement model options. For more detail on each one, look to the navigation menu on the right.

Traditional "Apprenticeship" Clinical Placement Model: One student per clinical educator. The clinical educator structures the student learning experiences and provides direct supervision and role-modelling to the student throughout the course of their placement. The degree of supervision and the amount of responsibility given to the student may vary, depending on context.

Shared Clinical Placement Model: Clinical education of a student may be shared between two therapists within a workplace. Therapists may be working in different focus areas. For example, acute inpatient focus and a rehabilitation focus. This may be an attractive option if you are a practitioner who works part-time, or if your caseload is coupled with senior or management duties.

Collaborative Clinical Placement Model (2:1 model): One clinical educator supervises two or more students. Here the emphasis is on peer and self-directed learning where the students support each other and work together and the clinical educator acts as a resource, providing guidance to the student, monitoring performance and providing opportunity for the students to take increasing responsibility for the clients. Benefits of this model include development of team-work skills, increased problem-solving skills and a sense of shared-ownership of the learning experience (Thomas, 2003) "Students [undertaking a collaborative placement] need to be self-initiating because the supervisor is not always available"
(S. Bartholomai, OT clinical educator, Ipswich Hospital [personal communication, May, 31, 2007).
 Refer to Fact Sheet 1.5 (PDF, 1.8MB): Benefits of the Collaborative student placement model
Refer to Suggestion Sheet 1.3 (PDF, 1.7MB): Tips for increasing efficiency using the collaborative placement model.

Inter-agency Clinical Placement Model: Occupational therapists collaborate with agencies from the voluntary/independent sector to provide part-time placements in related clinical fields, thus sharing the responsibility for student learning The student spends time in both settings (Fisher & Savin-Baden 2002). This model merges traditional with role-emerging models and provides opportunity for learning that is independent as well as role-modelled. This may be an attractive option if you work part-time or if the nature of your clientele means that unpredictable caseload fluctuations occur. This model provides a medium to promotes a working partnership between public, independent and voluntary sectors (Fisher & Savin-Baden, 2002).

Role-emerging Clinical Placement Model: Placement is undertaken by the student without on-site occupational therapy supervision in a setting where occupational therapy services are not routinely provided but where potential exists for an occupational therapy role to emerge. These placements promote more autonomous and self-directed learning, professional growth, and life-long learning. Supervision is provided by a member of the staff team at the agency. Formal supervision and assessment is carried out by an occupational therapist arranged by the facility or University. Refer to Fact Sheet 1.6 (PDF, 1.9 MB): Benefits of role-emerging placements.
Refer to Suggestion Sheet 1.4 (PDF, 1.9MB): How to set up and manage a role-emerging placement

Project-focussed Clinical Placement Model: Similar to the role-emerging model, the student (or group of students) is given time off from the clinical work of the centre to work on projects for you such as developing a service or a resource for a facility. Project work may take place within a traditional or non-traditional setting with or without on-site occupational therapy supervision, but with on-site supervision by a staff member of the agency. For instance, this may be an option for private practice placements where opportunity for clinical experience with a steady caseload of suitable clientele for the student is limited. Refer to Fact Sheet 1.7 (PDF, 1.8MB): Benefits of project-focused placements."
Refer to Suggestion Sheet 1.5 (PDF, 1.9MB): How to set up and manage a project-focused placement

Multiple Mentoring Clinical Placement Model: Multiple clinical educators to multiple students. This model promotes collegiality as students use one another as resources and also have opportunity to observe different educators approaching similar situations. The clinical educators, in turn have opportunity to work with students according to their strengths and interests. Multiple mentoring allows a clinical placement site to accept more students at one time, while minimizing stress on any one clinical educator (Nolinske,1995). Refer to Fact Sheet 1.8 (PDF, 1.7MB): Benefits of the multiple mentoring student placement model
Refer to Suggestion Sheet 1.6 (PDF, 1.7MB): Tips for greater efficiency using the multiple mentoring placement model.


Be sure to have a look at our practice education videos page, which includes videos and suggestions about many of these innovative placement models!

Flexible Arrangements

Did you know that if you are interested in supervising an occupational therapy student on block placement, you can:

  • Be flexible about placement start and finish dates to suit you;
  • Work around school holidays;
  • Offer a part time placement (i.e. half days or 2-3 days per week) over a longer period of time;
  • Share a placement with another clinical centre/organization;
  • Share a placement with another occupational therapist at your centre/organization;
  • Share the student between two case loads at your centre/organization; 
  • Be flexible about working hours for the student (i.e. start and finish times each day);
  • Give the student time off to attend university tutorials where relevant; 
  • Give the student time off from the centre to work on projects for you; 
  • Arrange for the student to visit other clinical centres relevant to their placement.

Short or Long Placements?

If this is your first time in providing student clinical education and setting up a clinical placement and you are not sure if you want to leap right into a long block placement just yet, why not consider beginning with a first or second year student in short fieldwork blocks? The focus of first year student fieldwork is mainly on gaining exposure and having opportunity to observe and reflect on occupational therapy practice with some self-directed learning. First year placements often require less direct occupational therapy supervision.

Longer block placements (7 -10 weeks) may be preferable, but not restricted to rehabilitation settings where continuity is important, "so that discharge planning can be channelled through one person to prevent confusion or inconsistencies" (N. Flynn, personal communication, June, 6, 2007), or in private practice, role-emerging and project-focused placements, where for instance, the student has sufficient time to complete a project and to evaluate outcomes and to gain a suitable level of independence.

"a full-time, longer block prac is preferable in the rehabilitation setting where patient-student rapport building, time to gain a more "whole" picture of client, and progression with discharge planning is required. Longer blocks allow grading of [student] skills."

(Occupational Therapy Clinical Educator, PA Hospital [personal communication, May 25, 2007]).

It is not essential that you take on a student full-time. If you work part-time or have fluctuating client caseload, then you may find that it would suit you best to nominate for a part-time student placement. This could involve either reduced hours (i.e. either half days or 2-3 days per week) over a longer period of time or, shared supervision responsibilities with another therapist or agency throughout a full-time block placement.