Supporting Student Clinical Education at Western Health – Experiences from a COVID-19 Hotspot

Dr Laura Browning1

1Western Health, St Albans, Australia

Western Health was substantially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with 44% of Victorian cases residing within our catchment area and our health service caring for 46% of Victorians requiring hospitalisation. Clinical education is vital for developing the future workforce and its continuation throughout the pandemic was essential. To facilitate the safe and effective delivery of onsite learning, innovative approaches to managing student placements, minimising risks and supervisor support were required. This presentation aims to share our unique experiences.

New processes such as pre-placement screening, clear descriptions of current practices and requirements, PPE training, clinical placement guidelines, contact tracing databases, coordinated space mapping, orientation checklists, regular student/supervisor/Education Provider correspondence, debriefing and support sessions and exploration of new modes of delivery were initiated. Regular huddles between Allied Health student coordinators, organisational Education leads and statewide Allied Health Educators provided opportunities to work collaboratively and share experiences, challenges and resources. Student supervisors were flexible and innovative with the ways they approached student learning and support.

Western Health delivered 73% of their usual clinical placement activity in 2020 and maintained their status as Victoria’s seventh largest Allied Health placement provider. No Allied Health students acquired COVID-19 during placement. Overwhelmingly positive feedback was received from students, with 97% reporting feeling welcome, 93% feeling valued, 93% feeling safe and 94% satisfied with their placement, despite the surrounding challenges. High praise for student supervisors was evident, with 69% of respondents voluntarily nominating staff who went above and beyond to provide them with the best possible learning experience.


Dr Laura Browning is the Allied Health Tertiary Education Lead at Western Health. She commenced in this role in 2014, following previous roles in academia, research, simulation and as a clinician in acute health care. Laura is a Physiotherapist by background and completed a PhD at The University of Melbourne in 2008. She is passionate about providing high quality learning experiences to the future workforce, supporting the Allied Health workforce in their roles as educators and clinical placement processes and governance.

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