Effectiveness of clinical supervision in improving patient outcomes

Clinical supervision is a process that involves an experienced health professional guiding the clinical practice of a less experienced health professional. The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care recommends that clinical supervision be provided to health professionals to ensure the safety of patients and maintain a high quality of care. Research investigating the effects of clinical supervision on patient care has found that supervision is associated with improved care when health professionals are directly supervised during their patient interactions. However, allied health professions typically use a model of “reflective supervision” that involves reflecting on practice with a supervisor away from the patient.

David Snowdon’s research involved a comparison of physiotherapist’s adherence to hip fracture clinical guidelines when they were provided with direct supervision sessions as an addition to reflective supervision, compared with reflective supervision alone. The results showed that direct supervision significantly enhanced physiotherapist compliance and led to a higher proportion of patients with hip fracture mobilising on the day following surgery and improved walking independence by the 5th day after surgery. These results demonstrate that a direct model of clinical supervision can influence both the quality of physiotherapy care and patient outcomes.

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snowdon da, hau r, leggat sg, taylor nf. does clinical supervision of health professionals improve patient safety? a systematic review and meta-analysis. int j qual health care. 2016;28(4):447-55.

snowdon da, leggat sg, taylor nf. does clinical supervision of healthcare professionals improve effectiveness of care and patient experience? a systematic review. bmc health services research. 2017;17(1):786.