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Activity 5.4: Organisational and interpersonal aspects of the practicum

Please complete these three activities and put them in your Portfolio.

Activity A Organisational aspects of the practicum

Case study: Unsuitable work, unsuitable alternative placement (from Student Rights and Responsibilities Workshop)

A mature-age student in a placement was expected to perform clinical procedures with which they were totally unfamiliar and in which they had received no training.

The student was then in the dilemma of attempting the procedure or admitting in front of the patient that they could not do it. The student attempted the procedure but could not complete it. The placement supervisor brushed the student aside, completed the procedure and belittled the student in front of the patient.

The student was informed they would fail at mid-placement. When the student discussed their assessment with the supervisor, it became clear that asking questions had been interpreted as indicative of a lack of basic knowledge, and had contributed to their fail grade. In addition, their inability to perform procedures they had not been taught had also adversely influenced their grade.

The course coordinator suggested that the student should undertake another placement. As the student lived interstate, and had young dependents, they felt that this request was unreasonable, and did not take into consideration their financial situation and family responsibilities.


Try to put yourself in this student’s situation. What strategies could the student adopt to assert their rights to refuse to perform certain procedures without jeopardising their assessment?

What strategies could the student take to undertake another placement which fitted in with her financial and family situation?

Activity B Interpersonal aspects of the practicum

Scenario: Handling bullying behaviour

On the first day of your placement, your supervisor introduces you to the staff at morning tea time. Everyone seems friendly. This continues throughout the day and you go home feeling already that you will fit into the organisation without any problems. However, at morning tea time the following day, despite your gesture of taking a cake to share, you sense a change in the atmosphere. It is not too bad, and you decide not to worry about it.

On the third day you are made to feel uncomfortable by two staff members in particular. They choose to ignore your greetings, give you dirty looks, then whisper to each other. You are a bit worried, but the rest of the staff still seem okay, so you decide not to take it personally. On the fourth day, there is a decided frostiness in the air at morning tea time, and only a few staff acknowledge you. While working, you encounter a problem for which you seek advice from a fellow staff member who has been helpful before.

You are told to ‘Ask the supervisor, it’s not my job’. You go to seek help from the supervisor, only to be told they are ‘not available’, even though you can see them clearly sitting in their office alone, and not using the phone or computer.

You are now seriously wondering if you have done something to upset them - although you cannot think of anything. You go home that night feeling very confused, asking yourself over and over what you might have done to get everyone offside - or is there something wrong with you?

  • Are you the wrong colour?
  • Are you the wrong nationality?
  • Do you smell strange?
  • Do you come across as a know-it-all?
  • Have you asked too many, or taboo questions?
  • Have you unintentionally trodden on someone’s ego by making suggestions about ways you think things might be improved?
  • Have you upset someone who is perhaps jealous of their friendship with another staff member with whom you have been friendly?
  • Is it a sexual thing?

You decide this has to stop. How will you confront this issue?

What strategies will you use to handle the problem?

Would you use any of the following:

  • Avoid the people who are ‘freezing you out’ but complain to everyone else?
  • Deny there’s any conflict?
  • Meekly confront the people (‘Sorry to bother you but...’)?
  • Intimidate the people by shouting at them?
  • Calmly but directly confront them?

What do you think will be the likely outcomes of your choices? Why?

Activity C Multiple organisational and interpersonal aspects of the practicum

Case study: Language problems, poor supervision, over-long working hours and bullying (Student Rights and Responsibilities Workshop)

A student whose first language was not English sought advice about how to change their placement. The reasons given were that the student was afraid of the supervisor because:

  • The supervisor bullied and humiliated them in front of clients.
  • The supervisor constantly stated it was likely they would fail - even from early in the placement.
  • The supervisor gave very limited feedback, and then it was only negative.
  • The student was expected to conform to the working pattern of the supervisor who worked through meal breaks and for longer than official working hours.
  • The student was constantly reminded (threatened) that the supervisor had the power to fail them.

The student was reluctant to contact the course coordinator as they felt they would be unsympathetic and would pressure them into remaining in the placement due to the scarcity of placements


How might language and cultural differences contribute to difficulties on placement?

What advice would you give the student about what to do?

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