Riding the waves: Lessons learnt from Victoria's COVID-19 pandemic response for maintaining effective allied health student education and clinical placements
journal contributionposted on 07.02.2022, 04:27 by P Brack, Andrea BramleyAndrea Bramley, S Downie, Marcus GardnerMarcus Gardner, J Leo, R Sturt, D Markham
Victoria was the Australian state most significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, which caused significant disruption to Victorian health services. The aim of this case study is to describe the experience of the Victorian public health system in adapting to support allied health student education during the pandemic. Factors that affected student education were complex and dynamic, and included a decrease in traditional face-to-face learning opportunities due to a transition to telehealth, social distancing requirements, furlough of staff and travel restrictions. Impacts on placement capacity across allied health professions were highly variable. Strategies used to enable the continuation of student work-integrated learning (WIL) (also referred to as clinical placements or fieldwork) included an increase in remote placements and the use of technology. Enhanced communication between government and health service educators enabled rapid sharing of information and problem solving. At this time, the impacts on student preparedness for practice are unclear but may include deficits in interprofessional learning, clinical skills, increased levels of agility and enhanced resilience. This case study highlights the need for the health system to be adaptable and innovative to maintain the quality of student education, and the future allied health workforce, through the pandemic and beyond. What is known about the topic?: The COVID-19 pandemic caused significant disruption to Victorian health services and consequently their ability to support WIL for students during this time. The pandemic created risks for continuity of student learning and future allied health workforce supply. What does this paper add?: The challenges that Victorian public health services faced to support student education during the pandemic were complex and dynamic. This paper describes the ways in which health services adapted to optimise the capacity and quality of student education. What are the implications for practitioners?: This case study highlights that a focus on student well-being and a high level of problem solving for health services were required to support student learning during the pandemic, and that enhanced communication between government and health services supported the rapid sharing of innovations. These strategies can be used to support quality student WIL through the pandemic and beyond.