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Post graduate clinical placements: evaluating benefits and challenges with a mixed methods cross sectional design.



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Yiend, Jenny 
Tracy, Derek K 
Sreenan, Brian 
Cardi, Valentina 
Foulkes, Tina 


BACKGROUND: Systematic evaluations of clinical placements are rare, especially when offered alongside academic postgraduate courses. An evidence-based approach is important to allow pedagogically-driven provision, rather than that solely governed by opinion or market demand. Our evaluation assessed a voluntary clinical placement scheme allied to a mental health course. METHODS: Data were collected over academic years 2010/11- 2013/14, from participating students (n = 20 to 58) and clinician supervisors (n = 10-12), using a mixed-methods cross-sectional design. Quantitative evaluation captured information on uptake, dropout, resource use, attitudes and experience, using standardized (the Placement Evaluation Questionnaire; the Scale To Assess the Therapeutic Relationship - Clinical version and the University of Toronto Placement Supervisor Evaluation) and bespoke questionnaires and audit data. Qualitative evaluation comprised two focus groups (5 clinicians, 5 students), to investigate attitudes, experience, perceived benefits, disadvantages and desired future developments. Data were analysed using framework analysis to identify a priori and emergent themes. RESULTS: High uptake (around 70 placements per annum), low dropout (2-3 students per annum; 5 %) and positive focus group comments suggested placements successfully provided added value and catered sufficiently to student demand. Students' responses confirmed that placements met expectations and the perception of benefit remained after completion with 70 % (n = 14) reporting an overall positive experience, 75 % (n = 15) reporting a pleasant learning experience, 60 % (n = 12) feeling that their clinical skills were enhanced and 85 % (n = 17) believing that it would benefit other students. Placements contributed the equivalent of seven full time unskilled posts per annum to local health care services. While qualitative data revealed perceived 'mutual benefit' for both students and clinicians, this was qualified by the inherent limitations of students' time and expertise. Areas for development included fostering learning around professionalism and students' confidence on placement. CONCLUSIONS: The addition of healthcare placements to academic postgraduate taught courses can improve their attractiveness to applicants, benefit healthcare services and enhance students' perception of their learning experiences. Well-positioned and supported placement learning opportunities could become a key differentiator for academic courses, over potential competitors. However, the actual implications for student employability and achievement remain to be established.



Attitude of Health Personnel, Cross-Sectional Studies, Education, Graduate, Evaluation Studies as Topic, Focus Groups, Health Occupations, Humans, Ontario, Preceptorship, Program Evaluation, Qualitative Research

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BMC Med Educ

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC