Leadership placements: What are they all about?

We need to look forwards to develop the skills needed for the future physiotherapy workforce to thrive in modern health care systems

Leadership placements
Leadership placements that we can pursue in the future

Leadership skills are crucial to create a strong and diverse workforce who champion what we do.  A workforce with the ability to influence and empower, to drive forward services, to think creatively and provide solutions. Our recent article ‘pillar talk’, discussed the importance of all four pillars of physiotherapy practice–clinical, leadership, education and research – at all levels to ensure a flexible and sustainable workforce. This includes student placements.

Although leadership placements have been around for several years, the Covid-19 pandemic has been a catalyst to their growth, awareness and acceptance amongst the profession. We do however understand that they are still relatively new to many, including students and practice educators. Here we discuss what to consider when setting up a leadership placement and highlight some tools to support you in doing so.   

What to consider when setting up a leadership placement

From discussions with students, practice educators and higher education institutions (HEI’s), Northumbria University on behalf of the North East and North Cumbria AHP Faculty, has identified a series of best practice principles to a leadership placement.

These are;

1. An authentic project

An authentic project, with a clear output, is a central feature of a successful leadership placement experience. Consider what the project will be and the impact it will have? How will a student contribute? 

2. Comprehensive preparation

As a relatively new concept, students reported feeling more uncertain about leadership placements in comparison to clinical placements. Consider preparing for the placement together with input from students, HEI’s and practice educators. How will the placement be structured? How can students find out more about the supervision and specific projects? 

Can you meet ahead of the placement to chat this through and provide an opportunity to ask any questions? 

3. Multiple students and peer supervision

Having 2 or more students was found to provide optimum conditions for student learning. Students reported feeling part of a group and highlighted the benefits of peer learning, idea sharing and the informal accountability created between one-another. Can you create a student placement involving 2 or more students at one time? Can peer learning, where students have time to learn and grow together, be incorporated?  

4. Team involvement

Involving a whole team in the student learning experience is a key feature within high-quality leadership placements. Students report a better understanding of team roles as well as seeing different ways of working and welcoming diversity of thought. There is less reliance on one educator and more people can be involved in shaping the future workforce, a key motivator for practice education teams. Consider who could be part of your student placement team? And why? How will they contribute to student learning?

5. Accessible and flexible support

As well as group supervision, educators should ensure they provide opportunity for 1:1 support. Consider how to best provide flexible support for each individual learner as well as the group?

6. Clear curriculum links

For widespread acceptance of leadership placements, students need to fully understand the purpose of their experience in terms of their development as a physiotherapist. What are the skills that they develop? How will this transfer into different practice settings or when applying for their first job? Consider liaising with the university regarding this or offering reflection sessions within the placement to help? 

7. In-built evaluation    

Make sure that you include evaluation of the placement to understand it’s impact. This will enable you to plan future development and learn together. Consider what does success look like? How can you best evaluate the impact of the placement? Can you capture the student, education team and organisational impact?

How does a student meet the learning outcomes on a leadership placement? 

The way that physiotherapy placements are assessed is changing. The Common Placement Assessment Form (CPAF) launched in September 2021 and offers a standard way of assessing students out on placement that can be used for all students from all HEI’s on placement across all practice settings – including leadership placements. 

The learning outcomes are all as applicable in non-patient facing settings as they are in clinical placements. To help you apply these to different settings and consider both what they mean and how they could be evidenced, please see our student and practice education team guidance documents as well as video guides.  No longer will a student not be able to meet a learning outcome because they are not in a clinical environment. 

Where can I find out more? 

Check out our practice-based learning web pages. Here you will find some innovative placement videos, including a leadership placement example. Within placement profiles section of these pages, you will also be able to see case study examples of leadership placements to inspire you to consider what learning opportunities could be unlocked within your setting.

Baker, K., Bradley, G. & Lowe, J. (2021) Placement Expansion – Focus on Non-clinical Leadership Placements. HEE Faculty Project Final Report, Northumbria University on behalf of the North East North Cumbria AHP Faculty

Number of subscribers: 1

Log in to comment and read comments that have been added