Well done. After all that worthwhile preparation, you are ready and awaiting the arrival of the student.

Now the fun begins!

2. Orientating the student

Now is the time to start working through that orientation checklist you have prepared! Perhaps start with orientation to department, introductions to work colleagues/staff, a tour of facilities and the greater service layout, then orientating to services, client diagnostic groups, caseload and referral processes.

Provide the student with client contact and opportunity to observe clinical sessions from the beginning. The sooner they can become familiar with the client population, common reasons for referral and functional issues, they will feel more oriented to the role of occupational therapy in this context. The student will appreciate opportunity to observe you and other staff interacting with the clients, and to be exposed to the styles and types of assessment and interventions that are practiced.

Allow opportunity for the student to take a role in your work and interactions with the client from the beginning, such as introducing self and student role, making conversation, clarifying client’s experiences by asking some appropriate questions or assisting you with equipment. It will help the student to build confidence and feel more in control and involved.

Encourage the student to take responsibility for aspects of their orientation. Once you have covered the most important aspects, provide the student with a list of items that they must familiarise themself with independently within a time-frame such as visiting other staff therapy sessions or doing site visits.

Some larger hospitals offer regular educational tutorials to new staff and students. Many centres or regional occupational therapy or interdisciplinary groups also organise an in-service program. Prompt the student to think about any tutorials or in-services that they particularly wish to attend.

What should I tell the student to do when observing clients?

It is important to instruct the student on the protocol of observing clients. The following points may be useful for consideration:

  • Client confidentiality and other ethical issues
  • What to do if the client is upset
  • How to introduce yourself as student
  • Appropriate note-taking in company of the client
  • How clinical educator will signal to a student the need to leave when necessary:
  • Appropriate time to talk to a client and appropriate themes
  • What questions can be directed to the clinical educator in front of the client:
  • Where should the student sit.