My practice

If you are offered the chance to supervise a placement student, grab it with both hands, says James Lampert

I have just said goodbye to my most recent student. Other practice educators will recognise the sense of relief when a student placement comes to an end, coupled with the hope that you’ve done your best to guide and help develop the next generation of practitioner.

It is a struggle to find enough student placements to meet the demands of training occupational therapists. Why is this? Maybe it’s the busy workload of practitioners. Maybe they’ve had a go before, but had a challenging or failing student. Maybe they don’t have the confidence to share their skills.

Personally, I value the professional responsibility that comes with providing practice placement opportunities. I also learn something from the student. As well as sharing my own knowledge, I keep my practice and thinking up to date with what is being taught in university today. It makes me challenge my own practice and listen to my students’ feedback.

I also need to maintain my registration with the Health Professions Council, by monitoring continuous professional development. One of the ways of demonstrating this is being a practice educator and being listed on a national register – the Accreditation of Practice Placement Educators’ Scheme (Apple), through the College of Occupational Therapists.

Up until last year I was a practitioner. Now I’m a manager I did think twice before I offered a placement. I wondered how would I still offer a quality learning  if I was not doing a “hands on” job myself?

All my fears were allayed as the other members of the team rallied around to offer my student opportunities to learn from them. I found the actual process of guidance and supervision that I offered still enabled my student to meet her learning objectives, and wasn’t any different whether I was a practitioner or a manager. 

The benefits to an organisation or to a team of offering a student placement are great, too. By investing in student education, there is the obvious advantage of being known to be a good place to work by prospective new graduates hoping to be recruited. One of the more subtle advantages includes the opportunity to work more closely in partnership with your local higher education institution to influence the training that is offered to their students and to the future of the profession.

I’m sure that there are many similarities for all social work students. My message to other managers and to practitioners, is that if you’re deliberating about whether or not to offer a student placement, enlist the support of your team to help make it a success and give it a go.

James Lampert is team leader, occupational therapy bureau, Kent County Council

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