Effective Clinical Supervision of Allied Health Professionals: a mixed methods study

What does clinical supervision mean to you? In the simplest term clinical supervision involves an experienced AHP guiding the practice and development of less experience colleagues. But what does it look like in practice, what makes supervision effective and successful?

This study is a qualitative mixed method design that used semi-structured interviews using an interpretive descriptive approach as well as survey, to explore AHP experiences with clinical supervision. The participants totalled 38 and were from 4 hospital sites in Melbourne, Australia. The breakdown of the 38 were as follows; 7 physiotherapists, 9 occupational therapists, 7 social workers, 4 dieticians, 2 psychologists, 4 podietrists and 5 speech therapists. Most were intermediate level clinicians with a mean age of 31.

Themes & Significance

  1. Professional development was the focus of clinical supervision
  2. Supervisor possessed the skills and attributes required to facilitate a constructive supervisory relationship
  3. Organisation provided an environment that facilitated this relationship and their professional development.

AHPs find clinical supervision when it focusses on their professional development and this is influenced by their supervisors skills in helping them achieve their goals. The organisational support they recieve for supervision is also integral to the success, this is all the more important when we think about the flexible approach needed for each profession within the AHP umbrella. Therefore clinical supervision policies and guidelines should reflect the clinical supervision model best suited to their profession’s role and learning style.

This article doesn’t specifically look at physiotherapy clinical supervision in detail but it does start to put AHP needs in context. The next step is to look at our professions needs and specify what kind of flexible approach is needed – is seeing a patient the way forwards, should we be doing more case discussions, should we be 1:1 or more group based. This article suggests that a flexible approach based on individual need is the most important thing to get right.