Improving undergraduate clinical supervision in a South African context

Elize archer


Improving undergraduate clinical supervision in a South African context.

E Archer and M van Heusden

The context and setting
The Faculty of Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University has undergraduate programmes for several disciplines. All these programmes; MBChB, Physiotherapy, Speech, Language and Hearing therapy, Dietetics and Occupational therapy need clinical supervisors to teach their undergraduate students in the clinical settings. Apart from having theoretical knowledge the students need to demonstrate clinical competence. They are supervised by qualified health professionals in the clinical areas. The faculty does not have the resources to present different clinical supervision courses for each discipline, hence the development of an interdisciplinary short course.

Why the idea was necessary
The health professionals acting as supervisors may be the experts in their fields, however, they do not always have the necessary teaching skills. This short course endeavored to increase the standard of clinical supervision in order to improve the knowledge, skills and attitudes of the undergraduate students. Ultimately this short course can attempt to raise the standard of health care in both private and public sectors.

What was done?
The Centre for Health Sciences Education (CHSE) at the faculty developed a generic short course in undergraduate clinical supervision to address the above issues. This course, coordinated by a professional nurse, was designed by representatives from each of the disciplines listed above.
The content of the course covers topics such as the different roles of the supervisor, adults learning; learning in a clinical environment; techniques of facilitating learning; assessment and feedback..
The course consists of one interdisciplinary contact session where a study guide is provided for self study. Within six weeks of attending the initial contact session students have to submit an assignment reflecting on their own clinical supervision skills. Continuous professional development points are awarded on completion of the course.
A qualitative study was done to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the course in order to re-curriculate as deemed necessary. Semi-structured individual interviews were held with 10 (n=18) course participants as well as the tutors involved in the development of the course. Ethical approval was obtained. Participation was voluntary and anonymity was guaranteed. The recorded and transcribed data was analyzed.

The evaluation of the results or impact
The data was used to inform restructuring of the short course e.g. the contact session was increased from 5 to 8 hours.
The impact of this short course on clinical supervisors was that their interaction with students in the clinical setting improved. Another impact was that the short course provided the clinical supervisors with skills to use new teaching strategies and to apply adult education principles.
There was unanimous support for extending the short course to all clinical supervisors. If this is not done supervisors have the inclination to apply the same teaching methods used when they were undergraduate students.
The lecturers involved in developing the course were positive about the interdisciplinary cooperation amongst colleagues and students. They emphasized that the university s an obligation to provide opportunities for clinical supervisors to improve their skills to supervise students and to have a better understanding of adult learning.

Author's affiliations

Elize archer, Universtiy of Stellenbosch

Full Text



clinical supervision, interdissiplinary, health sciences education

Cite this article

African Journal of Health Professions Education 2011;3(2):6.

Article History

Date submitted: 2010-11-29
Date published: 2011-12-02

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