Thinking outside of the square: Peer Supervision Groups

Beth Shields

Background or Problem/ Issue:
Clinical supervision is well known and widely practiced as a key support of quality and safe healthcare and health professional wellbeing. Evidence supports completing clinical supervision with a supervisor other than your line manager, and regularly evaluating supervisory relationships to ensure they remain a good fit. However, for senior and sole clinicians in a rural health service there is often a small pool of possible supervisors, with the default options generally being completing supervision with the line manager, or partnering with one supervisor for a prolonged period of time.

Method or What you did?
We followed a plan, do, study, act methodology to trial a model of peer supervision groups, initially amongst a group of 4 senior Occupational Therapists. The model was based on Counselling research and was in use at Monash Health. We set a 3 month trial period and completed pre and post evaluations with involved clinicians, using the clinical supervision evaluation questionnaire. A qualitative follow up interview was also conducted.

Results or Outcomes:
Pre-evaluations demonstrated all respondents felt the Peer Supervision group’s purpose was clear and the process would be effective, but were unsure what the impact would be. Post-evaluations confirmed the purpose of the Peer Supervision group had remained clear, the process had been effective and the impact had been positive. Qualitative feedback added getting together as a group and having time to ask clinical questions was valuable, and the group was pleased they had been able to keep the focus on restorative and formative elements of supervision. Key challenges included allowing sufficient time to meet, enabling sufficient opportunities for each clinician to receive supervision in a peer environment and maintaining an appropriate group size. The group recommended that an interprofessional group could work well.

Conclusions or Practice Implications:
Commencing a Peer Supervision group has been a valuable initiative to improve access to clinical supervision for senior clinicians at Gippsland Southern Health Service. Subsequent to this initial trial we’ve also commenced Peer Supervision groups in our Physiotherapy and Social Work teams, and have commenced an interprofessional group of senior and sole clinicians. We feel this approach could work well in other rural health services with small teams. However, we would recommend offering this model to Grade 2 or higher clinicians, capping the group size at 5 participants, setting clear shared expectations on the group’s purpose and processes and regularly evaluating the impact of the group.

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