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The Collaborative Approach to Clinical Education

Volume 3, Issue 2, 2006

Recent changes in health care service delivery involve a shift from a medical-centred or clinician-centred approach to a client-/patient-centred approach. The days when the clinician was the ‘expert’ who told the client what to do are becoming a thing of the past. People with communication disorders and their families increasingly expect to work as partners with their health care professionals. This shift in the style of relationship between health care providers and their clients has implications for the education of speech-language pathologists. Student speech-language pathologists still need to learn ‘how to do speech therapy’. They also need to learn how to collaborate with families, other speech-language pathologists, and other health care professionals. For this reason, parallel changes have occurred in the area of clinical supervision, i.e. in the supervisor-student relationship. This has evolved from a teacher-student dynamic to one in which the collaborative aspect has become more central.

The collaborative partnership between Clinical Educator (CE) and student prepares students to become autonomous professionals as they get involved early on in clinical reasoning and problem solving. The student assumes greater responsibility for their own learning and is increasingly encouraged to engage in all aspects of clinical management and other clinical tasks, the end goal being autonomy through self-analysis and self-supervision. For the CE this approach may result in higher satisfaction levels, as she/he witnesses the outcomes of the efforts involved in this collaborative partnership. In addition, especially when working with a stronger student, they may experience the relation as collegial.

In a clinical practicum where a collaborative approach to learning is adopted students are expected to assume a more active role in their learning by taking more responsibility during the clinical learning process. This is likely also why the 2:1 peer coaching model (a CE provides a practicum to 2 students simultaneously) has proved a very suited cooperative learning model, as students depend on each other to instil joint clinical growth during the learning process.

This shift also has an impact on the role of the clinical supervisor: the supervising role now also subsumes that of collaborator and facilitator. Because the term ‘supervisor’ conjures the traditional roles of teacher and student, the terms ‘clinical educator’ (CE) and ‘clinical education’ would more appropriately reflect the new dynamics. Nevertheless, this does not mean that ‘supervising’ is not part of the clinical educator’s task, neither that using this term necessarily entails an unequal relationship, and the terms ‘supervisor’, ‘supervision’ continue to be used.

More information about the collaborative approach for clinical educators can be found in the following this link: Clinical Training Manual

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