Dr Emalka Kulathunga1
1Western Health, Sunshine, Australia, 2The University of Melbourne, Carlton, Australia
Delivery of health care in hospital settings continues to adapt with changes in COVID-19 restrictions. Restrictions in place have made it challenging to provide on-site learning experiences to the same capacity as pre-COVID. To facilitate allied-health placements during these challenging times, the feasibility of remote or off-site learning activities (OSLAs) were explored at Western Health.
Implementation of OSLAs required development of privacy and confidentiality agreements and exploration of telehealth platforms (HealthDirect). Combination of telehealth platform and teleconferencing was used to deliver learning opportunities. Delivery of OSLAs was successfully hosted in October 2020 for Audiology placements at Western Health, which was found to be a feasible and positive experience for all involved. This new practice allowed Western Health to continue supporting Audiology student placements, which was not otherwise possible due to physical distancing restrictions within space-restricted testing booths.
Since recent ease of restrictions, Audiology at Western Health is currently trialling a mixed method of placement delivery whereby supervision is provided through telehealth platform/teleconference for OSLAs and telehealth platform for on-site placements, in situations where physical presence of a supervisor in the testing booth is not possible. Students have reported that this method of supervision has still enabled them to confidently provide clinical care to patients.
Successful delivery of this new placement model has opened up options for a mixed model (off-site/on-site) delivery of allied-health placements (OSLA and on-site learning). Mixed model placement delivery can provide invaluable learning opportunities for our future health workforce, including interstate and international allied-health students.
Dr Emalka Kulathunga holds a Master of Clinical Audiology, and a PhD in Audiology. She is as an Audiologist at Western Health and a Clinical Educator at The University of Melbourne. Her research background is in Cochlear Implants, but has since expanded her research interest to explore efficiency and efficacy of audiological service delivery in public health. She also has a keen interest in expanding allied health student placement opportunities in hospital settings.