Rethinking attitudes to student clinical supervision and patient care: a change management success story
McAllister, Sue Margery
Starr, Linda Anne
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Background The aim of this project was to explore the process of change in a busy community dental clinic following a team development intervention designed to improve the management of student supervision during clinical placements. Methods An action research model was used. Seven members of a community dental clinic team (three dentists, two dental therapists, one dental assistant and the clinic manager), together with the university clinical placement supervisor participated in the team development intervention. The intervention consisted of two profiling activities and associated workshops spread six months apart. These activities focused on individual work preferences and overall team performance with the aim of improving the functioning of the clinic as a learning environment for dental students. Evaluation data consisted of 20 participant interviews, fourteen hours of workplace observation and six sets of field notes. Following initial thematic analysis, project outcomes were re-analysed using activity theory and expansive learning as a theoretical framework. Results At project commencement students were not well integrated into the day-to-day clinic functioning. Staff expressed a general view that greater attention to student supervision would compromise patient care. Following the intervention greater clinical team cohesion and workflow changes delivered efficiencies in practice, enhanced relationships among team members, and more positive attitudes towards students. The physical layout of the clinic and clinical workloads were changed to achieve greater involvement of all team members in supporting student learning. Unexpectedly, these changes also improved clinic functioning and increased the number of student placements available. Conclusions In navigating the sequential stages of the expansive learning cycle, the clinical team ultimately redefined the ‘object’ of their activity and crossed previously impervious boundaries between healthcare delivery and student supervision with benefits to all parties.