Evolution of the clinical educator role to increase student placement capacity: From traditional to innovative


  • A. Ferguson, MSc(Nut Diet), Unit Head Dietitian
  • A. Haantjens, BSc(Hons), Unit Head Dietitian
  • M. Milosavljevic, BSc(Hons) Dip Nut Diet, MBA, APD, DBA, Manager of Clinical Nutrition Services



To evaluate the role of the clinical educator position in a specific teaching hospital setting on its ability to increase clinical student supervision capacity while maintaining staff productivity and sustaining staff morale.


A Clinical Educator position (0.5 full-time equivalent) was established as a manager of student placements as opposed to the traditional ‘hands-on’ clinical supervision or student team teaching role. This position developed two strategies to increase capacity for clinical placements: a peer support program, ‘INSITE’ (Innovative and Novel System to Improve the Teaching Experience) and ‘supervisory teams’. Over four years (2008–2011), the effect on staff productivity, staff morale and students was assessed using a range of measures including investigation of staff attitudes (focus groups and surveys), student perception of the placement (survey) and review of departmental productivity measures.


Staff participation in supervision increased from 42% to 98%. Thematic analysis of the focus groups found four main themes considered as components of an effective and manageable student placement program: communication, management of student progress, opportunities for professional growth and the management of challenges in supervision. With the introduction of INSITE, staff surveys found a noticeable improvement in the perception of their ability to manage students. A survey reported that students were satisfied or very satisfied with the clinical placement. Department activity statistics were maintained across the four years despite a 165% increase in clinical placement activity.


The development of the Clinical Educator from ‘ hands-on’ to manager increased the department's capacity to facilitate clinical placements while maintaining productivity and staff morale.