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Abstract

Purpose: As the population ages, the incidence and prevalence of chronic health issues requiring allied health management is increasing. Currently, there is an undersupply of appropriately skilled allied health professionals working in aged care. This has also been identified as a setting in which many beginning health practitioners are reluctant to seek employment. In order to address this workforce shortage, it is imperative that students are prepared for a possible future career within aged care facilities. Early clinical experience within this setting may increase student confidence, raise awareness of the need for services, and encourage students to consider working in aged care. At present, student clinical placements within aged care facilities are limited, potentially contributing to difficulties addressing workforce needs. The reasons for the lack of clinical placements and the relative contribution of the opinions, attitudes, training, and support needs of staff are unknown. The purpose of this study was to investigate the opinions, attitudes, support, and training needs of physiotherapists, dieticians, and managers working in residential aged care regarding allied health professional student clinical placements. Method: A written survey of allied health professionals (dieticians and physiotherapists, n=26) and managers (n=40) working in residential aged care was conducted. Responses were analysed using qualitative and quantitative methods. Results: Participants had generally positive attitudes towards student placements in residential aged care. Managers were significantly more positive regarding the scope for student clinical placements within their facilities than allied health professionals (p<0.05). The biggest barrier to student placements identified by both managers and allied health professionals was the nature of employment of allied health professionals in the sector. Participating allied health professionals also indicated that they required specific training in student supervision and the provision of clinical education. Conclusion: The attitudes and opinions of allied health professionals and managers did not appear to contribute to a lack of allied health professional student placements in aged care facilities. The main barriers to placement were the nature of allied health professional employment and a lack of staff experience in supervising students on clinical placement. Specific training and mentoring of allied health professionals may facilitate increased student placement capacity in the aged care setting.

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