We know placements are a wonderful opportunity for students to apply their knowledge in real-life situations, but placements can be a challenging for supervisors.  Supervisors may be pressed for time, be managing work or organisational demands, or facing their own personal issues.  There is potential for student supervisors to be affected by work-related stress and burn-out. 

The World Health Organisation defines ‘work-related stress’ as: ...“the response people may have when presented with work demands and pressures that are not matched t their knowledge and abilities and which challenge their ability to cope.”  

Workplace stress differs from burn-out.  Burn-out is defined in ICD-11 as follows: 

“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions: 
feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; 
increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and 
reduced professional efficacy. 
Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.” 

Student supervisors need to be proactive in seeking opportunities to develop their resilience (an ability to ‘overcome adversity, adapt and adjust, and maintain good mental health’ (Badu etal, 2020)

Four major components affecting wellbeingaffect wellbeing and resilience (Poulsen, 2013):  

  1. Detach 
  2. Relax 
  3. Mastery 
  4. Control.   


  • Set boundaries – consciously shift your thoughts away from work at the end of the day, leave notes/laptop/emails at work
  • Try to remain in the ‘Here and Now’ – reduce thinking about yesterday or what else needs to be done tomorrow
  • Incorporate ‘breathing space’ - Include adequate time away from your student during placement. Organise a session with another practitioner, provide them with project work, documentation time, reflection time so that you can catch up on what you need to do
  • Stop to savour – pause to consider a good moment, communicate positives with others
  • Consider three good things that happened today
  • Consider the use of ‘Appreciative Inquiry’ – with the team and student, actively discuss what is working well, list achievements


  • Take two deep breaths regularly
  • Allocate 10 minutes per day to abdominal breathing
  • Consider the use of formal relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxation 30 minutes per day. Griffith University has a list of links to various self help resources to improve your wellbeing for you to choose from
  • Consider starting regular Yoga
  • Take real breaks - sleep, naps, a holiday
  • After placement is completed, advantages can be gained from spending a small amount of time reflecting and rewarding yourself for all of the hard work undergone to complete the placement.  Consideration of the aspects you enjoyed most, what was done well and what could be done differently next time, allows a formal conclusion of the placement as well as learning for next time. 


  • Find a hobby
  • Build a network. Ensure you have enough support yourself – supervision or mentoring with a peer professionally as well as including an active social network outside of work
  • Identify your strengths to energise
  • Consider ‘Job Crafting’ – actively evaluate and change job components to align with identified strengths
  • Participate in lifelong learning -  this can provide access to additional opportunities and improve self-confidence and critical thinking ability amongst others


  • Become self-aware and politically adept so you are able to identify potential stressors and manage them in a timely fashion
  • Learn to say ‘no’ – assertive communicators are less likely to get swamped yet still maintain professionalism
  • Set one goal – when we have something to work towards, we are motivated to continue and achieve
  • Reward yourself – at the end of a placement, make sure you do something positive for yourself. You deserve it.

Supervision and Self-Care in Practice

  • In addition to mindfulness and self-care principles described, the Mental Health Professional Online Development website has compiled a formal Supervision and self-care in Mental Health Services learning module on how clinical practitioners can understand the challenges of working in the Mental Health setting specifically and importance of self-care. (Note:  The modules are free to complete, but require you to register as a user of the site)
  • Dr Anne Poulsens webcast “Self-care for health professionals” (00:52:36) explore the four components affecting wellbeing and resistance in more detail. 
  • SBK ‘Self help’ repository contains a variety of resources commissioned by the NHS to support health professionals with their self care.  This includes practical demonstrations and skill development sessions (e.g. meditations) through to evidence-based presentations on building psychological resilience. 
  • The Three Rivers UDRH Rural Clinical Placements "How to grow your own rural clinical placement" (short open access course), includes a module on "Self-care for clinicians – strategies to reduce stress and promote greater wellbeing as a clinical supervisor".
  • CRANA's Wellbeing for the bush - a guide for health workers booklet has been designed specifically for to support the mental health and wellbeing of the rural and remote health workforce.  While not specifically tailored for student supervision, there are some generic wellbeing principles that supervisors may find useful in maintaining their (or their students) health and wellbeing.
  • The TELL Centre offer a range of open access programs to support health professionals health and wellbeing (select 'Free Courses' from the Categories drop down list at this webpage link)



Please Note: References remain valid until superseded by later research. The resources referenced here are regularly reviewed and are considered current and relevant to the topics presented.

  • Badu, E., O’Brien, A.P., Mitchell, R., Rubin, M., James, C., McNeil, K., Nguyen, K. and Giles, M. (2020), Workplace stress and resilience in the Australian nursing workforce: A comprehensive integrative review. Int J Mental Health Nurs, 29: 5-34.
  • [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Depression: What is burnout? [Updated 2020 Jun 18]. Available from:
  • Poulsen, A. (2013). Self-care for health professionals: Building resilience, enhancing work engagement and preventing burnout (Webcast), The University of Queensland & WLBS- Qld Pty Ltd. Retrieved from
  • World Health Organisation (2019) Burn-out and “occupational phenomenon”: International Clasifcation of Diseases” News. Accessed September 2023 from
  • World Health Organisation (2019) Occupational health:  Stress at the workplace News. Accessed September 2023 from





Was the information on this page helpful?