Effective clinical education from a distance: Tele-supervision of clinical placements in speech pathology

Dr Jemma Skeat1, Ms Sinead Ryan

1University Of Melbourne, Carlton, Australia

Face-to-face clinical placements conducted within a clinical service have been the norm in speech pathology and other allied health professions, but 2020 required a shift in thinking about what both placements and supervision can look like. In the second half of 2020, as Melbourne shifted to tighter lockdown restrictions, impacting heavily on placement availability, we developed and evaluated a placement model that was entirely provided and supervised by distance.

Students, clinical educators (CEs) and clients all met virtually. This required repurposing and implementing digital systems for providing fully digital SP services to real clients, and clinical supervision to students via distance. Our clinical educators supervised sessions and facilitated student learning via feedback, case discussions, and so on, as they would for a clinical service placement. In this way, we continued to meet learning needs for students to progress in the course.

25/36 students who completed tele-supervised placements agreed to participate in an ongoing project exploring predictors of student satisfaction with clinical learning. Students responded to statements about the placement organisation, their experience of clinical supervision and their clinical learning. They also rated their own satisfaction with their learning on the placement. This compared favourably against ratings of previous student cohorts (N=40) attending in-clinic placements. We sought CE feedback about the placement, particularly examining running the placement at a distance from students. Thematic analysis was used to explore these data, and key themes arising will be discussed.

The learnings from our experience in speech pathology with respect to supervision at a distance via videoconference are likely applicable across disciplines and beyond Covid-19. Distance supervision may provide a greater scope for allied health placements in situations where there are few or no professionals from that discipline within a clinic, and for rural, remote or international placements.


Jemma is Lead of Clinical Programs in the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology. She is also a senior lecturer in the Master of Speech Pathology Course, and is responsible for curriculum development and accreditation.

She has over 15 years of clinical and research experience focusing on evidence-based practice, outcome measurement population health (particularly service access and use) in speech pathology and more broadly in rehabilitation. Her current research and teaching interests include collaborative (interdisciplinary) practice, evidence-based practice and clinical learning.

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