Providing an effective and rewarding clinical education experience for the student, you and your work facility, relies on good planning, time management, organisation and clear communication. Additionally, creating an optimal learning environment relies heavily on your willingness to share you time, knowledge, skill and space with a student in a collaborative, mutually respectful, open, flexible and supportive manner (Gaiptman & Anthony,1989, as cited in Potts, Babcock & McKee, 1998).

As a clinical educator, your level of motivation and confidence in having a student, as well as the creation of a physical and human work environment that is positive, enthusiastic and willing to support you in taking on a student, is paramount to the success of a positive student learning environment.

So, let’s explore what are the benefits of providing a student clinical placement? 

How occupational therapy students can benefit you and your work facility

Students can benefit you, by:

  • contributing to the development of your personal clinical education, supervision and leadership skills
  • prompting you to reflect and reason through own practice
  • keeping you up to date with theories and evidence
  • assisting with workload management, once student is competent.
  • gaining you valuable professional development hours
  • working on evidence based practice activities
  • supporting the future of the occupational therapy profession
  • contributing to the maintenance of good standards of clinical practice
  • providing opportunity for you to model sound professional and ethical behaviour
  • giving you the satisfaction of seeing the student learn and improve

Students can benefit your facility by:

  • enabling assessment of students for future recruitment potential.
  • increasing departmental productivity and client service provision.
  • developing and updating resources (e.g. client manuals, brochures, education programs and occupational therapy resource materials).
  • assisting with quality assurance activities
  • developing staff supervision and training skills.
  • developing staff clinical reasoning skills.
  • developing staff organisation and time management skills.
  • promoting exposure of the service to the community.
  • supporting the maintenance of supervising clinician skills.
  • promoting diversity in workplace (CPAC, 199; QOTFC, 2004b).
How you can make clinical education 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 style that you and your workplace offer?

Consider the following options:

Short or Long block 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, where continuity is important, where for instance, the student has sufficient time to build rapport, engage in a variety of assessments and intervention,  to evaluate outcomes and to gain a suitable level of independence.

Part-time or Full-time placement?

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.

Consider the following options:

  • 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.

  • 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 rolemodelled. 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 promote a working partnership between public, independent and voluntary sectors (Fisher & Savin-Baden, 2002).

  • 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.

  • 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)

Refer to Fact Sheet 1.5: Benefits of the collaborative student placement model

Refer to Suggestion Sheet 1.3: Tips for increasing efficiency using the collaborative student placement model

  • 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: Benefits of role-emerging placements

  • 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: Benefits of project-focused placements

  • 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: Benefits of the multiple mentoring student placement model

Refer to Suggestion Sheet 1.6: Tips for increasing efficiency using the multiple mentoring clinical placement model

Additionally, did you know that you can:
  • Be flexible about placement start and finish dates to suit you
  • Work around school holidays
  • Be flexible about working hours for the student
  • Give the students time off to attend University tutorials where relevant
  • Get the student to visit other clinical centres relevant to their placement 


Further information/resources:

Contact the university fieldwork teams to explore these approaches further and to gain valuable information on support and resources for placements, including training and workshops.