Supporting Supervisors to Support Students

how can teams assist someone who is supervising a student?

I just finished supervising a placement last week and the main feeling I have apart from relief and satisfaction is… exhaustion! Every year I supervise students and every year I forget how much energy, both mental and emotional, goes into a placement. The desire to make sure students are well supported and that their learning needs are met is strong and takes up a lot of thought. Under the backdrop of hoping that the student/s will meet their assessment requirements and achieve the objectives set by the organisation, it’s no mean feat!

And yet, I am really fortunate to have incredibly supportive and understanding colleagues, as well as a workplace that appreciates supervising placements typically means more work hours and that overtime will happen and needs to be compensated. Additionally, because I work in placement co-ordination, I feel like I’ve got a pretty good understanding of how to plan a placement well and try as much as possible to minimise surprises!

A lot of websites and documents talk about all the things supervisors should do to prepare for and support student placements, but it’s far more difficult to find information about what the supervisor’s team can do to support them, which can make supervision even more isolating. Here are my tips:

1.Be realistic with work:

Supervision is time consuming, and also takes up a lot of brain space. Anticipate this with your colleague/team member and discuss from the outset how this increased workload can be supported through things like allowing them to accrue time in lieu, be paid a supervision allowance, be paid overtime etc. You might also want to build in a day (or two!) off at the completion of the placement so that the supervisor can refresh and reboot.

2. Help to share the load:

I’ve spoken about collaborative supervision in another blogpost here. Whether you share the same discipline as the primary supervisor or have a different professional background, organise to take the student/s for a half day or full day of the placement to give your colleague a chance to get some other work done. This also benefits the student by seeing the way someone else works and possibly a different aspect of the organisation.

3. Support task delegation:

As a manager or colleague, encourage the supervisor/s to delegate some of their work tasks to yourself or other team members to handle during the placement. For example, I was due to submit my blog post in the middle of the placement I was supervising, so my colleague, knowing I was going to be busy, did her blog post instead, giving me a couple more weeks to plan mine! It might also be simple things like other colleagues following up on emails sent to the group, or organising meetings or events for you. The little things help.

4. Be available:

No matter how experienced the supervisor we will always have moments where we second guess ourselves and need to just debrief with someone else to double check that we are doing the right thing and handling the placement in an appropriate way. As colleagues, this could simply mean checking in on your supervising colleague from time to time and asking how it’s going and offering for them to chat with you. Some simple validation that you are on the right track can make the world of difference!

5. Celebrate:

Even if you love supervising students, it’s natural to feel a sense of relief on the final day of a placement and to see the students’ growth over time. Celebrate with your supervising colleague and congratulate them on a job well done in helping to grow the up and coming graduates. Give recognition to supervisors to demonstrate what an important part it plays in health workforce development.


If you are interested in learning more about supervision, please contact the Going Rural Health team, who can provide training, information and support.

Claire Salter

Community Placements Co-ordinator

Going Rural Health, Shepparton

Speech Pathologist