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Student Clinician Having Difficulty in External Practicum

Kay McNeal, MS, CCC-SLP

January 27, 2003



I am a supervisor in a busy medical setting and I have a student assigned to me. She seems to be trying but just cannot keep up with the pace. I don't want to fail her because she seems sincere but she is just not cutting it. What should I tell the university?


It would be most helpful to tell the university liaison all of your concerns about your student's performance, and to do so as soon as possible. A positive clinical training experience may still be possible at this point in the semester. The university liaison will listen to your concerns and can help to further define the nature of the student's difficulties. For example, if student performance issues demonstrated during this placement are not consistent with past performance, external variables such as personal illness or financial concerns may be impacting on the student's performance. If external variables are impinging on the student's ability to get her job done, the university liaison may direct the student to an appropriate support, and she may be able to then continue in her placement. Alternately, if successful completion of the practicum experience (defined by most academic programs as a grade of ''B'' or higher) appears unlikely, you will know that you have acted in the best educational interest of the student by discussing the situation thoroughly with the university liaison early in the semester.

In any case, it will be important for all parties (the student, the supervisor, and university liaison) to openly discuss the problems with the student's performance and to review expectations and responsibilities of the practicum placement. Ideally, this review should be done on site and a written summary of the review should be available to all participants. Following this review, a Supervisory Action Plan (Bartlett 2003) may be formulated so that each participant is aware of the expected outcomes of clinical training and the steps that will be taken. This Plan can address specific student weaknesses, while also noting strengths, in a systematic way by briefly describing the process toward improving student weaknesses. For example, if the supervisor feels that the student is too reliant on the supervisor for session feedback/evaluation, an expected outcome might be to increase the student's ability to self evaluate. A step to be taken by the student might be to complete video or audiotaped analyses for several consecutive therapy sessions, decribing her behaviors (e.g. cueing, corrective feedback) that contribute to patient success. The supervisor's initial action for this outcome might be to complete the same analysis online, comparing her results to those of the student. Use of this Supervisory Action Plan is one strategy that may help salvage an otherwise difficult situation, ensuring the best possible educational experience for both student and supervisor.


Bartlett S. (2003). Supervisory Action Plan. In E. McCrea, & J. Brasseur The Supervisory Process in Speech Language Pathology and Audiology (p. 154-156). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.


Kay McNeal, MS, CCC-SLP

Kay McNeal, M.S., CCC/SLP received her M.S. in Speech Language Pathology from Purdue University in 1986. She serves as the Coordinator of Clinical Education for the Department of Communication Sciences at Case Western Reserve University and teaches courses in clinical methods and practicum. In addition, Ms. McNeal is a Senior Clinical Speech Language Pathologist at the Cleveland Hearing and Speech Center, where she supervises graduate students in diagnostic and fluency clinics.

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