Why it's worth supporting students

We look at both the team and individual benefits 

Is it worth it?
Frontline supplement Is it worth it?

There’s as much team and organisational benefit in taking students on placement, as there are personal and professional benefits for individual educators. Let’s hear from colleagues in their own words about some of those benefits.

Jo Sainty, operational manager/professional lead from Airedale NHS Trust has been offering 2:1 leadership placement using a mixed virtual and in person model. Students work together on a project throughout the placement.

They alternated days in the office so stayed connected with each other using technology. The students presented ideas to the team and produced resources offering the service ‘quick turnaround deliverables’.

For anyone wondering about how far you can stretch students in these type of placements, the students were looking at advanced physiotherapy roles in orthopaedic clinics and FCP clinics. Supervision was long arm – jointly and as individuals. And the students were given increasing autonomy as the placement progressed, so that by the last two-to-three weeks the students managed their own diaries and projects autonomously. They even developed tips for the next iteration of the placement for the students and the practice educator, drawing from their own reflections on their experience. 

Lynn Flannigan, improvement advisor Healthcare Improvement Scotland, developed a 2:2 model of placement so that the two practice educators could support each other while the students did the same for each other. 

The practice educator team comprised of a physiotherapist, and an occupational therapist, who work within the Focus on Dementia team, situated in the ihub of Healthcare Improvement Scotland.  Given the current situation, the placement was fully virtual, being delivered via MS Teams.

Lynn explained that the students had a project brief focused on involving carers in dementia care. The brief specified what outputs were expected and what learning outcomes would be covered. The students were supported with a range of tutorials and interviews with stakeholders, set up in advance, covering topics such as quality improvement methodology, dementia, physiotherapy contribution to dementia, and involving carers. 

The placement had many benefits for the students in terms of using technology flexibly, experiencing inter-professional long arm supervision as well as the opportunity to immerse themselves in topics they may not have usually been exposed to. 

What Lynn conveys so strongly is the value to both the organisation and the practice educators as well.

You’ll see from her quotes (see below) how much value placement such as these have, not just for the individuals and the organisations they work for, but also for the profession at large.

The impact

Mary Joy Smyth, acute physiotherapy team lead of the Marillac Neurological Care Centre, said when seeking and receiving direct and regular feedback from students ‘you know where you can improve as a practice educator’.

Tara O’Leary, Great Western Hospital NHS Trust MSK outpatients department, said: ‘My clinical practice has improved despite not having as much direct patient contact due to the increased clinical reasoning and teaching I engage in with my students. 

‘Our profile as an employer has improved by providing a placement where the students feel they are really valued and prioritised.’    

Dean Jeffreys, online programmes and projects manager for MS-UK, said: ‘Along with identifying service improvements for us, the placements provided MS-UK with tangible outcomes and evidence for the possibility of a funded physiotherapist role to be created within the service.’

Friederike Stenning, clinical lead and head of intermediate care Lambeth Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust, Intermediate Care Lambeth (community), said: 'I learned as much from the student than the other way round.’

Lynn Flannigan, improvement advisor Healthcare Improvement Scotland supporting the delivery of Scotland’s national dementia strategies, said: ‘For the practice educators, it supported our on-going professional registration, our supervision skills and our subject matter knowledge and skills. 

'For the organisation it has tested the concept of student placements within the organisation and now we plan to expand placements to nursing and other AHP groups. Providing student placements for physiotherapists/AHPs brings an additional number of benefits including: building quality improvement capacity and capability within our future health and social care workforce. It also raises awareness of non-traditional careers for physiotherapists/AHPs.’

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