Clinical education adaptations to meet placement demand during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Ms Cate Fitzgerald1,2, Mrs Alis Moores1,3, Mrs Linda Furness1,3,4, Mrs  Penny Power1,5, Mrs  Sue Holley1,3

1Queensland Health, Brisbane, Australia, 2Metro South Health , Woolloongabba, Australia, 3Townsville Hospital and Health Service, Townsville, Australia, 4Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service, Toowoomba, Australia, 5Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service, South Brisbane, Australia

Introduction: Innovations for sustaining student practice placements in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic arose from health service and university uncertainty in an environment of rapid health service redesign. Continuing to provide placements with a focus on the quality of student placement learning required occupational therapy clinical educators within a jurisdiction wide public sector health service to implement a range of adaptations to their education practices.

Approach: Adaptations to clinical education practices, supervision approaches and placement models all aimed to maintain existing long and short block placements, provide new placements, and minimise flow on effects for meeting placement demand in future years. Attention to student and clinical educator health and wellbeing underpinned all adaptations to education practices. Collaboration between the health service and University partners was crucial in planning for and developing timely and suitable clinical placement education adaptations.

Results: Placement days data, appraised at 3 time points within January to June 2020, demonstrated an initial decrease of days offered for student placements from public health facilities however by June 30th, 2020 additional placement days were sourced with clinical educators adopting placement education adaptations.  By the end of 2020 university partners reported all final year student placement demand was met with no flow on effect into 2021 for earlier year student placements.

Conclusion: This presentation will discuss the adaptations undertaken to maintain quality clinical placements and source additional placements whilst health services were responding to a pandemic. The innovations will continue to benefit student placement education practices into the future.


Cate is currently the Statewide Program Manager for Occupational Therapy Clinical Education and Training for Queensland Health. She professionally manages the Occupational Therapy Clinical Education Program and its team of OT’s who arrange and support student clinical placements across Queensland Health. Cate has extensive experience as an Occupational Therapist working within Queensland Health, the University of Queensland and private training organisations. She has researched and published in the area of clinical eduction for occupational therapy and allied health.  She is passionate about promoting quality student and new graduate learning for the Occupational Therapy profession.

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