Open communication and regular feedback is essential for a positive learning experience for both the student and the supervisor. At a minimum consider having three formal meetings with the student: one at commencement, one mid-term and one on completion. In many cases a weekly meeting will ensure the placement is on track and issues are resolved early. As a general guide consider the following:

Initial meeting

At this meeting aim to:

  • Ensure the student is oriented to the placement, facility and staff
  • Ensure learning goals and objectives are clearly articulated and that there is a clear link between what the student hopes to achieve and the placement opportunities available in the timeframe (see Learning contract template). This is the ideal opportunity to redefine objectives and goals so that they are realistic and achievable.
  • Outline the process for supervision, assessment and feedback
  • Ensure there is a mutual understanding of each others expectations and needs. The more effort put into this initial meeting the more likely the placement will run smoothly and be a positive experience for all involved.

Weekly or Mid-Term Meeting

At these meetings aim to:

  • Track progress against goals and objectives
  • Encourage the student to reflect on experiences and relate these back to the goals and objectives
  • Make arrangements for any changes to the program to ensure learning needs are being met
  • Clarify any issues.

Final Meeting

At these meetings aim to:

  • Encourage a full self assessment from the student on their experiences and learning outcomes
  • Provide honest feedback on the students progress (there should be no surprises as any issues should have been raised directly at the weekly meetings)
  • Complete any placement records required by the education provider
  • Have the student evaluate the placement (see Survey questions template).

Providing feedback can be the most challenging part of supervision. Like all things – practice makes perfect!

Don’t leave it to the formal assessment process to provide feedback to the student. Provide regular, timely feedback.  Always try to start and finish with something positive. Consider using the following  statements to begin the conversation:

  • I really like the way you approached Mrs X, you made her feel welcome and comfortable
  • Your documentation is succinct and well structured
  • I thought you responded appropriately in that situation
  • Your findings and recommendations were relevant and appropriate
  • That was a tough day, thanks for being so helpful.

Then consider helping them see better ways to do things:

  • Next time you might like to think about introducing yourself
  • Don’t forget that many older patients don’t like being addressed so informally
  • I think you are getting a bit flustered – how about you take some time out to plan the rest of the shift / your approach for the next patient
  • I’d like you to read some other charts and see if you can identify better ways to document your assessment. Yours seem a little disjointed at present.

Ask them questions – encourage reflective practice at this point.

Remember when giving negative feedback:

  • Be gentle
  • Be respectful
  • Don’t humiliate them
  • Be specific and where possible provide solutions for improvement.