Factors to consider when offering a student placement in a mental health setting

In this video, staff from Hunter New England Mental Health Service discuss providing supervision for nursing students in a mental health setting, including factors that student supervisors should consider (Source:

The Preparing for and managing placement section of this website highlights various factors to consider when hosting a student placement.  Some considerations unique to a mental health care setting include: 

  • Student placement allocation:
    • University processes for assessing and communicating a student’s fitness for placement in a mental health care setting.
    • University processes for determining suitability of a mental health placement setting for a student/s.
    • Placement allocation processes that ensure universities have sound understanding of the type of setting and therefore preplacement preparation that may be required.
    • Placement allocation processes such as interview/meeting/survey encouraging the student to identify:
      • Specific learning or personal needs requiring support during the placement.
      • External or other personal circumstances that may impact upon the student’s mental health and wellbeing during the placement that they would like to disclose to their supervisor.
  • Risk management processes and resources, from both the university and service to support students who may become distressed while on placement or are at risk of experiencing vicarious trauma.
  • Resources to prepare students to support a person with mental ill health in the mental health care setting.
  • Resources on how to work in a multidisciplinary team within mental health care settings.
  • Processes to support students to critically reflect on their personal beliefs and values relating to mental ill health and how this might influence the provision of person-centred care.
  • Resources to support students understanding of specific mental health models of practice 
  • Processes for time management that ensure that the:
    • student has adequate time to talk, observe, read and reflect on their experience and learning
    • student supervisor has adequate time with the student explaining, facilitating, discussing and working through some of the information, skills and attributes that will allow the student to benefit from the placement.

Wendy Szatkowski, an experienced Occupational Therapist and Clinical Educator, who works in a mental health care setting, shares her experiences and thoughts on how to manage a student placement which promotes student learning.



Supporting Resources

The following resources suggest a range of solutions to commonly identified barriers at an organisational level, including a pro-forma Practice Placement Agreement between the workplace and university to facilitate the process:


  • Mental Health Coordinating Council (2013). Practice Placement Guide: Mental Health Workforce Professional Entry Practice Placements in the NSW Community Managed Mental Health Sector – a NSW Pilot Study. MHCC, Sydney.
  • Mental Health Coordinating Council (2013). Scoping Report: Mental Health Workforce Professional Entry Practice Placements in the NSW Community Managed Mental Health Sector – a NSW Pilot Study. MHCC, Sydney. 


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