JCPSLP Vol 23 No 3

Creative clinical education

How was it for you? University practice educators’ reflections on delivering a creative clinical placement during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK Lynsey Parrott, Esther Pettit, Alexandra Mallinson, Philippa Knox, Sally Bates, and Jane Callard

In September 2020 during the UK national lockdown associated with the coronavirus pandemic, three cohorts of speech and language pathology (SLP) students from different year groups were due to start their clinical placements. Faced with a significant shortfall of placement offers, principally from national health providers, six university-based SLP staff provided virtual placements using computer-simulated learning environments provided by Simucase®. Final year students worked in small groups and rotated around clinical specialisms. They engaged in a range of tasks including role-play, assessment selection, devising intervention materials, and writing case notes. Written reflections by SLP staff were recorded individually and analysed, by taking a phenomenological approach, for shared perspectives including realism in clinical education, role diversification and the importance of feedback. Implications for allied health programs are discussed. C linical placements enable undergraduate speech and language pathology (SLP) students to achieve competency to practise, with minimum hours being stipulated by, in this case, the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) in the UK. This practice-based learning is typically provided by health, education and social care organisations, in partnership with higher education institutions and is reliant on “good- will” relationships and perceived capacity. The COVID-19 pandemic created an unprecedented set of circumstances for the National Health Service and education provision in the UK, with all services operating under intense crisis level conditions. The impact on student experience was immediate with some clinical placements cancelled midway and, in the longer term, a significant diminution of placement offers. Prior to COVID-19, sourcing sufficient placements was already challenging due to increased demand and work pressures for SLP clinical educators. In this article we explore a creative and alternative model for the design and delivery of placement-based learning which was employed by pre-registration health care programs.

Terminology in clinical education varies across allied health professions and all international contexts, and in our university setting, as academic lecturers and SLPs, we created the term university-based placement educators to define our new role. A guiding principle for practice- based clinical education is the need to provide learning experiences that are both representative of contemporary practice and of a high quality. Criteria for quality in the SLP context include adherence to or consideration of evidence-based practice (Dollaghan, 2007), provision of developmentally focused feedback and sufficient opportunities to allow students to demonstrate the placement-specific required competencies. In February 2021, the RCSLT recognised the contribution that simulated practice placement opportunities could make towards the placement capacity expansion campaign (RCSLT, 2021). While the debate about the assessment nature of workplace learning is ongoing, specifically the tension around the fragmentation of complex practice into elements and competencies (Trede & Smith, 2014), higher education continues to provide diverse and credible teaching and learning opportunities. The impact of COVID-19 precipitated the creation of novel placement opportunities, requiring the team of six SLP academics to take on the additional role of university- based placement educators (UPE), partially supported by additional funding from Health Education England’s Clinical Placement Expansion Programme. In SLP, this dual role of academic and placement educator is not evidenced in the recent literature; therefore, in this article, we explore the experiences of these UPEs through analysis of their written reflections. Computer-based simulated learning environments While simulated learning environments (SLE) have gradually begun to be incorporated into SLP education (see Dudding & Nottingham, 2018), the profession is receptive to understanding the impact of SLE on SLP education, and on the roles and perspectives of supervising SLPs. The benefits to students who experience SLE, and specifically computer-based SLE, are documented across a small number of studies (see Hill et al., 2021) and include a lessening of perceived anxiety, a development of clinical skills, preparation for their future SLP role, and the recognised need for specific and detailed feedback. However, the insights and experiences for supervising SLPs appear to have received little attention.



Dr Lynsey Parrott (top), Esther Pettit (centre) and

Alexandra Mallinson


JCPSLP Volume 23, Number 3 2021

Journal of Clinical Practice in Speech-Language Pathology

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