Supporting positive rural student placements

Heather Agnew1, Robyn Gill2

1Senior Clinical Educator, Occupational Therapy, Country Health SA Local Health Network/ Flinders University of SA, PO Box 267 Mount Gambier SA 5290,
2Senior Clinical Educator, Physiotherapy, Country Health SA Local Health Network/ Flinders University of SA, PO Box 2100 Adelaide SA 5001,

Country Health SA Local Health Network (CHSALHN) and Flinders University of South Australia have partnered together for an allied health clinical education program that is thriving. The partnership agreement, which commenced in 2012, currently sees approximately 40 Physiotherapy (PT) and 24 Occupational Therapy (OT) students undertake clinical placements each year at CHSALHN sites. These rural clinical placements are supported by two Senior Clinical Educator roles (OT and PT) facilitated by Flinders University funding.

By providing a valuable link between students’ university programs and rural clinical placements, the Senior Clinical Educators facilitate positive and supported rural student placement experiences.

To assist student support networks, and to maintain regular contact with all students on placement, across wide geographical distances, each Senior Clinical Educator facilitates a weekly teleconference program. These programs enable students to debrief and support each other, to celebrate successes, and to share and reflect upon their varied rural placement experiences. Tutoring on key topics also enhances their individual clinical placement learning. Furthermore, by connecting students with their peers and university educators, the teleconferences aim to support placement supervisors.

Further detail will be outlined about the content and structure of the teleconference programs, and about the identified outcomes for both students and supervisors. Key feedback from students will be presented, along with reflections from the Senior Clinical Educators and placement supervisors. The benefits of the teleconference programs for the ongoing success of the clinical education partnership and promotion of future rural employment opportunities to students will also be highlighted.


Heather Agnew graduated as an Occupational Therapist in 1998 and has since gained varied clinical experience as an employee of Country Health SA Local Health Network (CHSALHN) in the South East region of South Australia.

Robyn Gill graduated as a Physiotherapist in 1987 and also holds a Master of Applied Science in Physiotherapy (Manipulative Physio) from the University of SA (1994). Robyn has been an educator of Physiotherapy students for over 25 years.

Currently, Heather and Robyn work for CHSALHN as the Senior Clinical Educators, Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy, supporting rural clinical placements in partnership with Flinders University of SA.

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