Identify and explore the problem:

  • Point out the concerns you have and provide opportunity for the student to discuss the background to any difficulties
  • Try to take a collaborative approach to assist the student toward ownership of the concerns as well as fi nding the solutions
  • Try to isolate the problem. For example, rather than say “ you are too shy with clients”, be specific “you seem to communicate with staff and colleagues confidently and assertively on a professional level, however when you are with certain clients, I notice that you appear very uncertain and seem to lack confidence communicating with them. For example, when you were with Mr Jones on the home visit, you avoided eye contact and direct conversation with him. Instead you directed all questions toward Mrs Jones and myself. I have noticed this occurring on other occasions on the wards. What are your thoughts on those observations?” You can then open up dialogue with the student about the problem by giving the student opportunity to explain what is happening for them. Sometimes students are just not aware that their difficulties are significant.         

Provide timely and factual feedback:

Active listening:

  • Includes the student in reflecting upon their situation and considering contributing factors
  • Helps to maintain open lines of communication

Counselling and support:

  • As mentioned in Part 4 – Feedback and Evaluation, it is not expected that you provide personal counselling for your students. If a student requires counselling, please contact the clinical placement liaison staff of the appropriate university

Referral to another professional:

  • If appropriate the student can access professional counselling free of charge through the university’s student services. Of course, talk with the student about their readiness to do this and provide explanation for why you see it would be important

Develop a strategy:

  • Review and establish new opportunities for the student to practice inadequately developed skills/ competencies
  • Brainstorm solutions with the student. Try to keep strategies and outcome measures concrete
  • Modify your approach. For instance, consider the student’s preferred learning style. For instance: Would further demonstration or more step-by-step instructions be helpful? Should you use a whiteboard? Does the student need time to reflect on possible solutions to the problem?
  • Modify the grading of planned learning experiences to promote confidence and increased competence
  • Monitor student’s implementation of the strategy and designate a review and evaluation date

Maintain confidentiality:

  • It is a requirement of the universities that student confi dentiality relating to academic and clinical performance, university grades and any personal matters raised in the course of communications with students, is protected whilst on placement
  • Students’ progress and performance should only be discussed with the necessary people in the clinical setting and/or at the university (normally clinical education staff). The University clinical education staff will consult with the Head of Division as required

Document the process:

  • Include all important observations, discussions and decisions.

Seek support:

  • You may wish to confide in the clinical education manager at your workplace, the university clinical education liaison person and/or even other clinical educators at your facility about your concerns and also to seek a second opinion on the accuracy and significance of your observations.
  • If the matter cannot be resolved with the student on a local level, you should contact the clinical placement liaison staff of the university and complete a ‘Concerns Exist’ form (located in the SPEF manual) and fax or email it to the relevant University. The concern will be followed up by phone or email by a clinical education liaison staff member to discuss the issues in confidence.
  • The University clinical education liaison staff will offer active assistance, mediation and support and negotiate with you to visit or phone the student to provide additional assistance, such as reviewing or consulting on the performance improvement plan.
  • Be assured that both yourself as clinical educator and the student will be supported throughout the process.

Review and evaluate outcomes:

  • Ensure dates for both review and final evaluation are agreed with the student
  • Look for change in performance and allow student opportunity to demonstrate change in performance
  • Gain feedback from other staff regarding performance
  • Provide feedback when change or no change in performance is noted
  • Review and/or modify strategy and implement strategy
  • Evaluate performance and assign a grade.

(Moeller,1997; Maloney et al,1997, as cited in CPAC, 1997; Fitzgerald, 2007)


Managing the Student Experiencing Challenges

  • Identify the problem

  • Explore the background

  • Be supportive

  • Provide timely intervention

  • Maintain confidentiality

  • Document the process

  • Seek support

  • Review and evaluate outcomes