Evaluation of a modified, evidence-based Allied Health Graduate Program implemented during the Covid-19 pandemic

Ms Nalini Natesan1, Mr Rodney Sturt1, Ms Marnie Graco1

1Alfred Health, Melbourne, Australia

Introduction
Allied health graduates (AHGs) are faced with challenges when entering the healthcare workforce. Support, supervision and professional development are essential to help graduates with the transition from student to health professional.

In the state of Victoria, it is an expectation that AHGs participate in a formal structured Allied Health Graduate Program (AHGP). In 2020, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, an inaugural AHGP was created and implemented virtually at a tertiary health service to compliment existing organisational orientation and discipline-specific supervision and support.

Method
A mixed-methods study design incorporated:

  1. Evidencing the need – benchmarking, interviews with managers, educators and graduates.
  2. Development of a modified AHGP in accordance with COVID-19 restrictions.
  3. Implementation and evaluation – the AHGP was delivered virtually via Microsoft Teams from July to November 2020. Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA) cycles were used to refine the program and evaluation was undertaken with surveys and focus groups.

Results
The benefits of a virtual AHGP included socialisation, networking, sharing experiences and strategies. Engagement, interactivity and influence on practice, all rated highly by AHGs. Support from seniors and management enabled participation with accessibility being an advantage of a virtually delivered program.

Barriers to participation included clinical demands, time commitment, rotation changes and AHGs found the session length of 1.5 hours, long for a virtually delivered program. While interactivity improved in smaller groups, AHGs thought the depth of discussion would have improved with face-to-face delivery. For future AHGPs, AHGs recommended a hybrid approach with virtual and face-to-face delivery.

Conclusion
An inaugural AHGP at this tertiary health service was implemented during the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the challenges this posed, the results highlighted the benefits of a virtually delivered program when face-to-face delivery is not possible. For future iterations, AHGs recommend a hybrid approach as there benefits to virtual and face-to-face delivery.


Biography:

Nalini is an experienced podiatrist with a passion for advancing clinical care in the management of the high-risk foot. She is also an Allied Health Clinical Educator at Alfred Health with a focus on engaging Allied Health staff and students in clinical education activities, specifically undergraduates, graduates, new staff and Allied Health Assistants. Nalini recently implemented and evaluated a virtually delivered interprofessional Allied Health Graduate Program during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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