Most practice educators ask who should supervise students and the extent to which students must be supervised. There is no easy, one-way-fits-all answer to this.
Who should supervise students?
Although the CSP advocates that a student should have one main HCPC registered educator/supervisor who would be responsible for the student and carry out the placement assessment, we also encourage practice educators to consider the benefits of sharing student supervision with others.
Please note, the HCPC do not say how many staff must be present at each placement, or that those staff must be registered with the HCPC.
In liaison with the HEI, practice educators may wish to delegate some student supervision to individuals who have the relevant knowledge, skills, experience and abilities to help students learn on practice placements.
Physiotherapist practice educators may therefore consider sharing the education and supervision of students with other grades of physiotherapist, support workers, professionals, voluntary sector workers or care home staff, among others. In making these sorts of arrangements there are key issues to be considered:
1. The potential benefits of sharing student supervision
The benefits of supervision from alternative sources need to be made clear by the practice educator to the student and relevant HEI colleagues. Benefits need to be mapped clearly to desired student/learner learning outcomes.
Benefits may include:
- Inter-professional learning
- Teamwork and understanding different roles
- Learning about how health and social care systems operate
2. Clarification of roles
The roles, responsibilities and expectations of those involved, including the student, must be clarified.
- To whom does the student report?
- Do arrangements for shared student supervision include the expectation that the students will be educated as well as supervised?
- Who will countersign students’ notes and when? - see the CSP Record Keeping Guidance
- Where do the responsibilities for student welfare lie throughout the placement? Who gives the student/learner feedback and when?
- Inter-supervisor communication and thorough pre-placement planning will be essential in order to iron out these issues.
- Roles, responsibilities and expectations of all involved in the placement (including the student) must be made clear to the student during induction.
3. Insurance cover
- All parties require appropriate insurance cover. See CSP Information Paper: Insurance and Physiotherapy Practice.
- On-going evaluation and re-evaluation by all those involved in sharing supervision of students/learners will be required to inform and enhance future practice. This will help develop the quality of the learning environment.
Level of student/learner supervision
The level of student supervision is not dictated or prescribed by the CSP or the HCPC. The HEI should therefore clarify the level of supervision expected for students at various stages of learning. However, ultimately, the level of supervision required for each student is decided on by the practice educator on an individual student basis. Supervision may vary from continuous supervision in the same room to a more long-arm approach with consultation. The level of supervision required depends on many factors such as the:
- level of the student
- complexity of patient cases
- safety concerns (for patients and students)
- previous experience of the student
- confidence of the student and practice educator
- support required by the student
- physical environment and geographical location of the placement
- availability of others to supervise the student
Furthermore, the level of direct student supervision may vary throughout a placement. Often this decreases as the practice educator and student build mutual understandings of expectations and responsibilities and as the student gains confidence in their role and abilities.
Just as different students require different levels of support, they will also require different levels of supervision. Most importantly, patient care and safety, as well as student care and safety, must never be compromised as a result of inadequate student supervision.