Role Emerging Placements

role emerging placements

Community service through student placements


Role emerging placements have become somewhat of a norm in the Going Rural Health team amongst the service learning placement co-ordinators. Role emerging placements seem to have their origins in the occupational therapy space, with Wood (2005) defining these placements as being designed to promote occupational therapy services in settings where the role of the occupational therapist has not yet been established.

Since then, other allied health disciplines have picked up on this concept and begun exploring placement opportunities for students where the discipline does not currently exist (see for example Kyte et al., 2019).

The GRH team are continuing to develop role emerging opportunities for a range of allied health disciplines, some of which are outlined below:


Examples from Going Rural Health

1. Occupational Therapy
  • Paired students were placed in a charity organisation supporting people with mental health and housing/homelessness challenges. The student impact of this placement was so significant that the organisation ended up creating 2 occupational therapy positions, one of which was filled by a former student.
  • Students have been engaged in a project looking into the scope for an intergenerational kinder program, whereby kinder students do part of their learning with residents of an aged care facility, benefiting both groups.
2. Physiotherapy
  • Two students at a time are rotated through a specialist school on a rolling basis throughout the school year where they provide support to school students in conjunction with the school based occupational therapist and speech pathologist.
  • Students are placed at a local leisure centre where they do a combination of clinic days and running a pilot project that the centre is interested in exploring as a standing service. Pilots run so far include a chronic pain group, a balance group for people aged over 60, an osteoarthritis group and upcoming, an exercise group for war veterans and a postnatal group.
3. Speech Pathology
  • Students are based at a primary school conducting speech and language screening of prep students, providing teachers with training and support around language and pre-literacy skills, and providing children with speech and language support in small groups and individually focused sessions.
4. Social Work
  • Two students were placed in a disability organisation. They interviewed willing clients about their access to services under their NDIS plans, as well as talking to them about barriers to accessing and participating in the community. 
  • A student was placed in a charity organisation focused on supporting mothers experiencing hardship either due to reasons such as family violence, financial hardship or insecurity created from being a recent immigrant. The student was able to provide consultation and case management support to clients using social principles around attachment and trauma.

The benefits to the community from these kinds of placements are hopefully obvious, as they provide services and opportunities that may otherwise not occur. Danzca et al., (2013) also outlines a range of student benefits from role emerging placements:

  • develop confidence as autonomous practitioners (Thew et al., 2008);
  • develop skills in communication, leadership and management (Fortune, Farnworth & McKinstry, 2006);
  • consolidate professional identity and promote the uniqueness and value of occupational therapy (Totten & Pratt, 2001);
  • integrate theory into practice and experience independent learning (Rodger et al., 2007); and
  • develop the skills in reflection, problem‐solving, resourcefulness and self‐management (Bartholomai & Fitzgerald, 2007)



Placement planning is nearly always a chicken and egg process. Perhaps you work in a community organisation that has a gap in its service delivery that could be fulfilled by allied health students or perhaps you’re a university that is constantly looking for specific placements that are hard to find. Connecting with placement planning/co-ordination teams, such as Going Rural Health, can help you to flesh out what your needs are and determine what kind of role emerging opportunities might be possible. Please contact myself or the team for more information. 



Bartholomai, S. & Fitzgerald, C. (2007). The collaborative model of fieldwork education: Implementation of the model in a regional hospital rehabilitation setting. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 54, S23– S30.

Dancza, K., Warren, A., Copley, J., Rodger, S., Moran, M., McKay, E., Taylor, A. (2013). Learning experiences on role-emerging placements: an exploration from the students’ perspective. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 60(6), 427-435. doi: 10.1111/1440-1630.12079

Fortune, T., Farnworth, L. & McKinstry, C. (2006). Viewpoint. Project‐focussed fieldwork: Core business or fieldwork fillers? Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 53, 233– 236.

Kyte, R., Frank, H., Wood, K., Ransley, B., & Thomas, Y. (2019). Role emerging placements in physiotherapy: student experiences and practical considerations. Physiotherapy105, e113–e114.

Rodger, S., Thomas, Y., Dickson, D., McBryde, C., Broadbridge, J., Hawkins, R. et al. (2007). Putting students to work: Valuing fieldwork placements as a mechanism for recruitment and shaping the future occupational therapy workforce. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 54, S94– S97.

Thew, M., Hargreaves, A. & Cronin‐Davis, J. (2008). An evaluation of a role‐emerging practice placement model for a full cohort of occupational therapy students. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 71, 348– 353.

Totten, C. & Pratt, J. (2001). Innovation in fieldwork education: Working with members of the homeless population in Glasgow. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 64, 559– 563.

Wood, A. (2005). Student practice contexts: Changing face, changing place. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68, 375– 378.


**Thanks to Vecteezy (link HERE) for the use of images.

Claire Salter

Community Placements Co-ordinator

Going Rural Health Shepparton

Speech Pathologist