E. Tuite

Technological University Dublin (IRELAND)
Practice placements form an integral component of many professional training programmes. The benefits of spending a component of an academic course within a supported practice environment are well established (D.E.S, 2016). Such practice placements allow for the transition of theoretical knowledge from the classroom setting into the workplace environment. The practice placement offers very significant benefits to the student and the employer in relation to testing suitability, identifying required competencies and allowing for a progressive movement into industry. For those students undertaking practice placements the challenges remain significant, appropriate preplacement preparation can mediate some potential difficulties through ensuring a good match between the student and the agency, explicitly stating required professional behaviours and providing significant supports in the early stages of the practice placement.

Within the caring professions practice placements have long been considered an essential component of professional training. In an Irish context, CORU (the statutory multi profession health and social care regulator) has a specific requirement that students complete a minimum of 800 hours in practice placement as part of approved undergraduate training for social care (CORU, 2017). This paper focuses on learning to be gleaned from a case study analysis of unsuccessful student practice placements within the field of social care. Data gathered is based on a five-year review of students who had an unsuccessful attempt at a practice placement module. Critical factors which impacted on the unsuccessful outcome are identified, as are key learnings which could prevent such failures in future.

Whilst it is acknowledged that practice placement failure is very much the exception rather than the norm it is proposed that there is much to be gained from analysing the experiences of those students identified as not competent in practice. Gaining greater insights as to why people experience failure in practice allows aims to achieve better practice placement outcomes generally, better protection of the public and vulnerable service users and to support the reputation of the educational institute.

The current study identified three key categories under which placement failure can be categorised (lack of key personal skills, poor preparation for demands of the environment and critically poor judgement) and proposes a model for supporting students at risk of failure through identifying the areas to be addressed and proposing a pathway for resolving these issues.

Identifying and addressing practice placements where there is a risk of failure as early as possible increases the likelihood of a successful outcome for the student, the industry provider and the educational institute.