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A systematic review of professional supervision experiences and effects for allied health practitioners working in non-metropolitan health care settings

Authors Ducat W, Kumar S

Received 13 March 2015

Accepted for publication 22 June 2015

Published 26 August 2015 Volume 2015:8 Pages 397—407


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Scott Fraser

Wendy H Ducat,1,3 Saravana Kumar2

1Cunningham Centre, Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service, Australia; 2School of Health Sciences, International Centre for Allied Health Evidence, Sansom Institute, University of South Australia, Adelaide, SA, Australia; 3Rural Clinical School, School of Medicine, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia

Introduction: In regional, rural, and remote settings, allied health professional supervision is one organizational mechanism designed to support and retain the workforce, provide clinical governance, and enhance service delivery. A systematic approach to evaluating the evidence of the experience and effects of professional supervision for non-metropolitan allied health practitioners and their service delivery is needed.
Methods: Studies investigating the experience and effects of professional supervision across 17 allied health disciplines in non-metropolitan health services were systematically searched for using standardized keywords across seven databases. The initial search identified 1,574 references. Of these studies, five met inclusion criteria and were subject to full methodological appraisal by both reviewers. Two studies were primarily qualitative with three studies primarily quantitative in their approach. Studies were appraised using McMaster critical appraisal tools and data were extracted and synthesized.
Results: Studies reported the context specific benefits and challenges of supervision in non-metropolitan areas and the importance of supervision in enhancing satisfaction and support in these areas. Comparison of findings between metropolitan and non-metropolitan settings within one study suggested that allied health in non-metropolitan settings were more satisfied with supervision though less likely to access it and preferred supervision with other non-metropolitan practitioners over access to more experienced supervisors. One study in a regional health service identified the lack of an agreed upon definition and functions of supervision when supervisors from diverse allied health disciplines were surveyed. While methodologically weak, all studies reported positive perceptions of supervision across professionals, supervisors, and managers. This is in accordance with previous research in the wider supervision literature.
Discussion: Considering the large pool of studies retrieved for further investigation, few of these met inclusion criteria demonstrating the paucity of primary research in this area. Increased training, policies, and implementation frameworks to ensure the definition and functions of supervision are agreed upon across the allied health disciplines in non-metropolitan areas is needed. Furthermore, systematic evaluation of supervision implementation in non-metropolitan settings, investigation of the experience and effects of distance based supervision (versus face-to-face), and increased rigor in research studies investigating non-metropolitan allied health profession supervision is needed.

Keywords: clinical supervision, allied health, professional development

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