Being a good supervisor

A clinical supervisor is9:

an appropriately qualified and recognised professional who guides students’ education and training during clinical placements. The clinical supervisor’s role may encompass educational, support  and managerial functions. The clinical supervisor is responsible for ensuring safe, appropriate and high-quality patient care.

The quality of clinical supervision is the key influence on the quality of the clinical placement and, ultimately, on the calibre of the health practitioner10.

The more active you are in your role as a supervisor the more you and your student can expect to gain from the experience. Active supervision occurs when you are sufficiently engaged and vigilant to support students when they need help, whether or not a request for help is made. Active supervision acknowledges that some students, or all students in some situations, are “unconsciously incompetent” — that is, they do not know what they do not know, and will not always recognise situations that are beyond their current abilities where patient safety may be at risk11. Active supervision requires a sophisticated level of understanding as to when to intervene and when to allow the student freedom of action.

Consider how best to support your students by:

  • Having planned their placement – be prepared (see Pre-Placement Survey and Placement Planner templates)
  • Providing a safe environment which addresses physical, emotional and professional safety2
  • Giving responsibility for patient care appropriate to their level of skill and within their scope of practice.
  • Role modelling good teamwork
  • Being receptive to new ideas and knowledge  – they may be able to help you learn!
  • Being supportive of their learning – being receptive to questions, being able to direct them to further information and evidence, being proactive about potential learning experiences in which the student can participate, asking questions that encourages deep learning and reflection
  • Being honest and open about your own knowledge and competence – don’t be afraid to not know something – enjoy finding out together.