There is no doubt that being an effective clinical educator does require energy, motivation and interest.
And, having sound organisation and time-management skills most certainly helps!

Students are likely to bring to their placement a degree of anxiety and apprehension about many things, including their ability to succeed, about their relationship with you their clinical educator and about your impression of them.

If they find that you are approachable and set them at ease from the beginning, and if they are aware of your expectations of them from the outset, then they are going to be a lot more open to learning, to asking questions and to reflecting with you on their learning.

The good news is, it is not necessary to be an expert to provide an effective clinical learning experience for a student! For instance, you don’t need to be an expert to encourage the student to reflect and to practice critical thinking, to foster self-management skills, professional socialisation and communication, nor to demonstrate and build enthusiasm and interest in the work and the profession.

According to students surveyed in a study by Hummell (1997, as cited in Fitzgerald, 2007, March) the following clinical educator attributes were rated as highly desirable:

  • approachable  
  • friendly         
  • welcoming  
  • interested
  • an active listener       
  • respectful 
  • open   
  • available   
  • encouraging
  • organised   
  • an effective communicator     
  • provides constructive feedback.           
  • flexible and enthusiastic about clinical education and the profession itself       
  • provides appropriate orientation and grading of student responsibility
  • provides clear rationale for interventions

Do you think you could match some of these attributes? It is likely that you already do.

As a clinical educator, you are providing opportunities that enable the student to learn by way of inquiry, observation, action, reflection, feedback and evaluation. 

Additionally, being a clinical educator is about carrying out the following roles:


ensuring a smooth, planned and motivating placement


actively monitoring student performance, client response and student/client interaction; acknowledges student learning style


allows opportunity for questions, carefully listening; attention to student learning style; teaching a new skill; clear explanations.


allows time for support and feedback; is a mutually educative exchange, offers problem-solving, ensures privacy, maintains appropriate role boundaries.


analyses performance merits and problems; timely in identifying learning needs; relies on keen observation and documentation of observations; expectations are clear, certifies pass/fail based on SPEF (Student Placement Evaluation Form, see below).


provides recommendations for improvement, is timely; relates to remediable behaviours; takes place in written, verbal, direct, indirect and peer feedback styles.

(Best & Rose, 1996, as cited in Fitzgerald, 2007)

Clinical education is a two-way learning process. If you don’t know something, you can both learn in this way through joint inquiry. Remember when we listed the benefits of having a student? Opportunity to develop your personal supervision skills, to hone your clinical reasoning skills, and to keep up to date with theories and evidence, were on top of the list!  We can only continue to learn from a student clinical education experience!

Providing clinical education is about engaging the student in an experiential teaching and learning process in the context of sensitive and ethical client care which, is student focussed, explorative and may be student lead. It involves the translation of theory into the development of clinical knowledge and skills and supports the development of clinical reasoning, professional socialisation and life-long learning

(McAllister, 1997, as cited in Fitzgerald, 2007, March).