Ahpra and the National Boards, together with the Australian Government and the Health Professions Accreditation Collaborative Forum, have set national principles for clinical education to guide decisions of professions, Accreditation Authorities, education providers and health services about student clinical education during the COVID-19 pandemic response.
Download a PDF of the National principles for clinical education during the COVID-19 pandemic (114 KB,PDF)
The COVID-19 pandemic is challenging the health system requiring rapid changes to health services and models of care, and new levels of collaboration across sectors. Some student placements have been paused or cancelled as health service providers prepare for the pandemic. Students may also be needed as part of the surge workforce depending on the severity of the pandemic.
Registration as a health practitioner confirms a student has the necessary knowledge, clinical skills and capabilities to start as a beginner practitioner. Education providers rely on supervised clinical placements in health services as part of clinical education, especially for students to develop higher order clinical capabilities such as diagnosis, management and professional judgement. However, accreditation standards for programs leading to registration are quite flexible about how these capabilities can be taught and assessed.
Australia’s future health workforce is dependent on current students maintaining access to a range of opportunities to build these capabilities. Their timely graduation and registration is critical to workforce sustainability.
The Australian Government, through the Health and Education portfolios, and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra), National Boards and Accreditation Authorities, want to encourage student placements to continue where this is safe and possible. Clinical education arrangements, including supervised placements vary across professions. They can occur within different settings, including state/territory public hospitals and health services, as well as placements in private practice and the non-government sector. Placements can provide mutual benefit to the health service and the student. How best to achieve this varies and may need further modification during the pandemic, with the safety of care paramount.
We recognise that health services and supervising clinicians will decide how placements continue, balancing the short versus long-term risks and benefits to students and the health workforce. Based on our collective experience, we propose the following principles for student clinical education. These are deliberately high level and flexible, recognising the dynamic environment and the needs of different health services, professions and education providers. The statement of principles acknowledges and complements statements developed for specific professions by professional bodies and Accreditation Authorities.