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Words in action: Examining what clinical education placement documents contribute to thinking, acting and feeling like a health professional

Linda Furness, Anna Tynan, Jenny Ostini


Introduction: Clinical placements are critical for student learning and transition to practice. They help students integrate their knowledge and skills and support their development of professional identity—so they come to “think, act and feel” like a member of their profession. Students have reported that placements play a role in development of professional identity. Documents are frequently the first contact students have with the placement setting. However, there are few studies examining the impact of clinical placement documents on the development of allied health students’ professional identity. This study examines what clinical placement documents contribute to the development of professional identity through facilitating thinking, feeling and acting like a health professional.

Methods: Thematic analysis of clinical education placement documents was conducted using a deductive framework based on review of literature considering how students can be supported to think, act and feel like a health professional.

Results: Thirteen placement orientation documents were reviewed. Reference to factors that support “thinking” described learning opportunities to enable students to develop knowledge for practice. Reference to factors that support “acting” described graded learning that enables student contribution to service delivery and recognition as a health professional, and reference to factors that support “feeling” described workplace culture and practices supporting connectedness.

Conclusions: This study identified that placement documents can contribute to allied health students thinking, acting and feeling like a health professional while on clinical placement. Academic staff and organisations reviewing clinical placement documents may wish to consider the implications identified in this study, which demonstrate how documents can include or exclude students in the workplace.


clinical education; clinical placement; allied health; professional identity; rural and regional

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