Understanding the Allied Health Professions Student Experience of Practice Placements during the First Wave of the Coronavirus Pandemic


  • Julie Marchant Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust




Allied Health Professionals, COVID-19, NHS, placement, virtual


In England, a national lockdown came into effect on 23 March 2020 in response to the rapid spread of the Coronavirus. Healthcare services were quickly redesigned or scaled back to meet the significant and rising demands. Many practice placements were discontinued, which resulted in large numbers of Allied Health Professions (AHPs) pre-registration students requiring placements to meet the required practice hours. The challenge for placement providers, who were experiencing increased demand and uncertainty, was to continue providing quality placements. At the local trust, 58 AHP students had a placement between April and July 2020. Some clinical areas offered traditional placements. However due to social distancing rules many placements utilised blended practice; using aspects of both direct face-to-face and remote practice. It is important to understand the student experience in anticipation of future surges of Coronavirus. In total, 36 students responded to a placement survey. Results showed the majority of the students reported positive placement experiences overall. Despite the ever-changing placement landscape and the need for flexibility, it is important to ensure that placements are well planned and that students are well informed about the safety measures in place. It is vital that student’s feel welcomed and valued in order to learn and reach their full potential whilst on placement. The use of a blended placement model provided valuable learning experiences, however consideration needs to be given to ensure that students feel part of the team and have confidence that their learning needs are met.


Bennion, J., Symons, T., Shearman, I., Holloway, C., & Kain, R. (2020). PSS-Study: An exploration of physiotherapy student-perceived stress and the related coping strategies whilst on placement. International Journal of Practice-based Learning in Health and Social Care, 8(2), 68–85. https://doi.org/10.18552/ijpblhsc.v8i2.654

Bíró, É., Veres-Balajti, I., & Kósa, K. (2016). Social support contributes to resilience among physiotherapy students: A cross sectional survey and focus group study. Physiotherapy, 102(2), 189–195. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physio.2015.05.002

Blomberg, K., Bisholt, B., Engström, A, K., Ohlsson, U., Johansson, A, S., & Gustafsson, M. (2014). Swedish nursing students’ experience of stress during clinical practice in relation to clinical setting characteristics and the organisation of the clinical education. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 23, 2264–2271. https://doi.org/10.1111/jocn.12506

Bradbury-Jones, C., Sambrook, S., & Irvine, F. (2011). Empowerment and being valued: A phenomenological study of nursing students' experiences of clinical practice. Nurse Education Today, 31(4), 368-372. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nedt.2010.07.008

Burnard, P., Binti, H.T., Rahim, H.A., Hayes, D., & Edwards, D. (2007). A descriptive study of Bruneian student nurses; perception of stress. Nurse Education Today, 27(7), 808–818

Cassidy, E., Norris, M., & Williams, A. (2020). What does it take to graduate? A qualitative exploration of the perceptions of successful physiotherapy graduates from one university in the UK. Physiotherapy Theory and Practice, 36(2), 316-332. https://doi.org/10.1080/09593985.2018.1485799

Crombie, A., Brindley, J., Harris, D., Marks-Maran, D., & Morris Thompson, T. (2013). Factors that enhance rates of completion: What makes students stay? Nurse Education Today, 33(11), 1282–1287. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nedt.2013.03.020

Decorte, T., Malm, A., Sznitman, S. R., Hakkarainen, P., Barratt, M. J., Potter, G. R., Werse, B., Kamphausen, G., Lenton, S., & Frank, V. A. (2019). The challenges and benefits of analyzing feedback comments in surveys: Lessons from a cross-national online survey of small-scale cannabis growers. Methodological Innovations, 12(1), 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1177/2059799119825606

Dunbar, H., & Carter, B. (2017). A sense of belonging: The importance of fostering student nurses’ affective bonds. Journal of Child Health Care, 21(4), 367–369. https://doi.org/10.1177/1367493517739977

Gale, N. K., Heath, G., Cameron, E., Rashid, S., & Redwood, S. (2013). Using the framework method for the analysis of qualitative data in multi-disciplinary health Research. BMC Medical Research Methodology, 13(117). https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2288-13-117

Gilbert, A. W., Billany, J. C. T., Adam, R., Martin, L., Tobin, R., Bagdai, S., Galvin, N., Farr, I., Allain, A., Davies, L., & Bateson, J. (2020). Rapid implementation of virtual clinics due to COVID-19: report and early evaluation of a quality improvement initiative. British Medical Journal Open Quality, 9(2). http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjoq-2020-000985

Greenburg, N. (2020). Managing mental health challenges faced by healthcare workers during COVID-19 pandemic. British Medical Journal, 368. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m1211

Grobecker, P.A. (2016). A sense of belonging and perceived stress among baccalaureate nursing students in clinical placements. Nurse Education Today, 36,178–183. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nedt.2015.09.015

Hamshire, C., & Wibberley, C. (2017). Fitting in with the team: Facilitative mentors in physiotherapy student placements. Teaching & Learning Inquiry, 5(2). http://dx.doi.org/10.20343/teachlearninqu.5.2.7

Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC). (2020a). Joint statement on how we will support and enable the student allied health professional workforce to respond to the COVID-19. https://www.hcpc-uk.org/news-and-events/news/2020/joint-statement-on-how-we-will-support-and-enable-the-student-allied-health-professional-workforce-to-respond-to-the-covid-19/

Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC). (2020b). Advice for education providers. https://www.hcpc-uk.org/covid-19/advice/advice-for-educationproviders

Health Education England. (2018). Reducing Pre-registration Attrition and Improving Retention Report. https://www.hee.nhs.uk/our-work/reducing-pre-registration-attrition-improving-retention

Health Education England. (2020). Current placement expectations of AHP Regulators and Professional Bodies. https://www.hee.nhs.uk/our-work/allied-health-professions/helping-ensure-essential-supply-ahps/placement-expansion-innovation/current-placement-expectations-ahp-regulators

Jonsén, E., Melender, H. L., & Hilli, Y. (2013). Finnish and Swedish nursing students' experiences of their first clinical practice placement — A qualitative study. Nurse Education Today, 33(3), 297–302. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nedt.2012.06.012

Kirke, P., Layton, N., & Sim, J. (2007). Informing fieldwork design: Key elements to quality in fieldwork education for undergraduate occupational therapy students. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 54(1), S13–S22. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1440-1630.2007.00696.x

Mullholland, S., Derdall, M., & Roy, B. (2006). The Student’s Perspective on What Makes an Exceptional Practice Placement Educator. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 69(12), 567–571. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F030802260606901206

Raudenská, R., Steinerová, V., Javurková, A., Urits, I., Kaye, A, D., Viswanath, O., & Varrassi, G. (2020). Occupational burnout syndrome and posttraumatic stress among healthcare professionals during the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Best Practice & Research Clinical Anaesthesiology, 34(3), 553–560 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpa.2020.07.008

Rodger, S., Fitzgerald, C., Davila, W., Millar, F., & Allison, H. (2011). What makes a quality occupational therapy practice placement? Students’ and practice educators’ perspectives. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 58(3), 195–202. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1440-1630.2010.00903.x

Spoorthy, M. S., Pratapa, S. K., & Mahant, S. (2020). Mental health problems faced by healthcare workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic–A review. Asian Journal of Psychiatry, 51. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajp.2020.102119

Taylor, L. (2020a). Placements post COVID-19 – time for re-evaluation? https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/news-and-views/placements-post-covid-19-time-re-evaluation

Taylor, L. (2020b). PEEP: A virtual alternative placement. OT News, 28(7), 39-41. https://view.joomag.com/occupational-therapy-news-july-2020/0103641001594290775?short&

Timmins, F., Corroon, A. M., Byrne, G., & Mooney, B. (2011). The challenge of contemporary nurse education programmes. Perceived stressors of nursing students: Mental health and related lifestyle issues. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 18(9), 758–766. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2850.2011.01780.x

Twogood, R., Hares, E., Wyatt, M., & Cuff, A. (2020). Rapid implementation and improvement of a virtual student placement model in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. BMJ Open Quality, 9, e001107. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjoq-2020-001107




How to Cite

Marchant, J. (2021). Understanding the Allied Health Professions Student Experience of Practice Placements during the First Wave of the Coronavirus Pandemic. International Journal of Practice-Based Learning in Health and Social Care, 9(2), 39–48. https://doi.org/10.18552/ijpblhsc.v9i2.741