Navigating Online/Virtual Placements

Ensuring you are ABLE to thrive undertaking your online placement

Photo 1

Photo 2

Can you spot the difference in the photos? I thought I would include these photos of myself and my friend of 44 years having a zoom social catch up. She lives in South Africa and this was her first time on a zoom meeting so you will notice in photo 1 her expression really summed up how she was feeling navigating Zoom. I think we can all relate to feeling this way over the last few weeks with all we have had to navigate and adjust too! As more and more placements move to an online platform we are once again learning a new way of doing something in our lives. This got me thinking about what I have learnt from supervising students on their online placements and what lessons we have learnt on the journey. What are those qualities that will make one ABLE to not only survive an online placement but to also thrive during this experience? Here are some ‘ABLES’ which I hope you will be able to benefit from applying…..

  1. AdaptABLE – The online placement model certainly requires adaptability. As your clinician/supervisor is not with you during the day as they would have at your onsite placement, you need to adapt how you structure your day. TIP: Developing a calendar which you can share with your supervisor will allow them to be able to see your availability and also to identify when you are becoming ‘too busy’.
  2. AdjustABLE –Traditionally host sites would be well familiar with the service they are providing and how they are providing these services, but in these times many host sites are for the very first time providing their services via telehealth or working within the restrictions of COVID-19. As the staff at these sites are needing to adjust how they deliver services, students too can benefit from being ready to adjust in line with their host site. TIP: Use this time to support your host site in identifying the various ways in which a service can be delivered by playing an active role in exploring solutions to how the world of provides quality healthcare to all.
  3. AccessABLE – As host sites work to understand what students need to engage in order to ensure they have a comprehensive placement, they can benefit from your input. Develop a means to access your supervisor and key contact person, ensuring you share with them anything you feel you could benefit from engaging more with. TIP: Set up a daily check in time (especially in the first few weeks of your placement) so that everyone has an up to date understanding of how you are managing and what your needs are.
  4. MoveABLE – By movable I mean really and truly actually movable!! Our bodies are missing all the physical activity we usually engage in as we go about our activities of daily living. The sprint for the tram, the popping out for a coffee and the moving on to the next lecture room is replaced by hours and hours of sitting on a chair. TIP: Keep moving on top of your usual daily exercise. Try new forms of physical activity and ensure you move about between your online meetings. For exercise and laughter try one of the You Tube ‘Just Dance’ videos here.
  5. SociABLE – Engaging in an online placement means we miss out on so many of those whimsical and light-hearted moments in the day where we laugh together and share kindness. We don’t get to thank someone for opening a door for us or hear ‘Hello. How was your weekend?’ as we walk into work. All these little moments add up to bring joy to our lives, and now we are needing to actively create them. TIP: Take a few moments to linger at the end of a meeting for some ‘chit chat’ with colleagues on site. Set up online ‘coffee dates’ with classmates who are on placement elsewhere. Try new things that involve interacting with others, for example an online quiz.

As you undertake your online placement I hope that you too will overcome the challenges you face like my friend did when engaging with Zoom for the first time. By the end of the session she was smiling (photo 2) as she had a sense of accomplishment at having adapted to the new way of doing things. It is also worth noting she kept a sense of humour through it all, which certainly ensured her well-being stayed her priority. Put good practices in place daily whilst completing your online placement, and you will reap the rewards!

I will leave you with this link to a recently produced song by a group of Canadian singers who came together to bring some encouragement to the health staff in Canada….I hope you will find it as uplifting as I did. Find it here.

Charmaine Swanson

Charmaine Swanson

Associate Lecturer, Rural Health Community Placements

Occupational Therapist

Going Rural Health Ballarat

NB: There is a great video on YouTube by American singer Chris Mann that is relevant to this topic. For those of you who don’t know, Chris has spent a lot of the COVID-19 lockdown creating parodies of popular songs about the challenges of the pandemic. Find his ‘zoom’ video here.