Clinical Supervision and Allied Health practice: What are we doing? And does it make a difference?

Mr Kim Nguyen1, Dr Imelda Burgman1, Dr Anne Vertigan1

1Hunter New England Local Health District, New Lambton, Australia

Background: Clinical Supervision (CS) is an essential component of clinical governance, and a measure of clinical performance and effectiveness. The research investigated CS practice in Hunter New England Local Health District (HNE Health) for dietitians, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, podiatrists and speech pathologists; and explored the perceptions of these allied health professionals on the impact of CS on patient outcomes.

Methods: A mixed methods sequential design was employed. Phase One: A customised online survey including the Manchester Clinical Supervision Scale-26. The survey was partly completed by 201 participants, with 166 participants fully completing the survey. Phase Two: 15 semi-structured interviews were conducted and analysed using grounded theory, with iterative analysis of 88 free text survey responses, and survey responses on CS style and perceived patient outcomes.

Results: Phase One: CS arrangements included face to face, group and peer supervision, with most (86%) provided on site. Most CS sessions were an hour in length (54%) and occurred monthly (39%). CS was considered effective by the majority (71%) of respondents. Less than a third (27%) had received CS training. Phase Two: Two main themes emerged from the data. Conditions for effective CS had six subthemes: management support; networks & experts: flexibility & choice; dedicated time; supervisor & supervisee training: and supervisee input & collaboration. Effective CS for positive patient outcomes included effective CS subthemes of reflection, clinical reasoning, sharing of resources/information and development of skills/knowledge. Positive patient outcomes were identified by the subthemes of functional improvement, consistency of clinical care and meeting patient goals/desired outcomes.

Conclusions: CS was effective for the majority of participants, and was demonstrated to lead to positive patient outcomes of functional improvement, consistency of clinical care and facilitation of patient health care goals. This is the first known research determining a direct link between CS and patient outcomes.


Since 2014, Kim has been the Executive Director Workforce & Executive Director Allied Health, for the Hunter New England Local Health District, NSW.  In 2012, he became President of the NSW Occupational Therapy Council, Health Professional Council Authority. This was a statutory appointment by Governor of NSW.  Kim is a Conjoint Senior Lecturer, School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medicine, University of Newcastle. He is a Fellow, Australia Institute of Management, a Fellow, Royal Society for Public Health, and an Associate Fellow, Australasian College of Health Service Management. Kim has a Bachelor of Applied Science (Occupational Therapy), a Graduate Diploma in Public Health, and a Graduate Diploma of Human Resource Management.

A/Prof Anne Vertigan is the manager of speech pathology for John Hunter Hospital and Belmont Hospital in Newcastle Australia, and Conjoint Associate Professor in the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Newcastle Australia. She graduated from Latrobe University in Melbourne with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Speech Pathology, a Master of Business Administration from the University of Newcastle and a PhD through the University of Queensland. Anne’s clinical load includes acute inpatients, voice disorders, chronic cough/PVFM, laryngectomy and dysphagia. She is the speech pathologist in the Severe Asthma Clinic at John Hunter Hospital and chair of the Hunter New England Allied Health Research Network. Research interests include voice disorders, chronic cough/PVFM and voice & upper airway disorders in asthma. Anne has conducted several research projects in the area of chronic cough and PVFM and published the first text book on speech pathology management of these conditions.

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