Background. In the United Kingdom, the drive to encourage reflective practice through clinical supervision, as a means of ensuring quality of provision in nursing and other health care professions, is now well-embedded, not only in policy but also in practice. However, debate and critique of these concepts is limited.
Aim. The aim of this paper is to draw on research, conducted with undergraduate occupational therapy students and qualified physiotherapists, in order to contribute to the debate about the functions of clinical supervision and reflective practice in nursing and other health care professions.
Discussion. Upholding the notion that clinical supervision has the potential to constitute a form of surveillance, we counter the assumption that it is inevitably confessional in nature. A social constructionist perspective is used to illustrate how clinical supervision might involve a complex interplay of factors that dispel notions of predictability, control and rationality.
Conclusion. Despite acknowledging tensions, we argue that clinical supervision is both necessary and beneficial. It can be advantageous to individual practitioners and professional groups in enhancing practice and accountability, and promoting professional development.