Practice education: A snapshot from Australian university programmes

Louise Gustafsson, Ted Brown, Carol Mckinstry, Anne Maree Caine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Background/aim: Practice education is an integral component of the learning process for occupational therapy students. The dramatic increase in Australian occupational therapy programmes and students enrolled over the last decade is placing exponential demands on universities and practice education providers to meet accreditation and registration requirements. This study aimed to explore practice education from the perspectives of Australian occupational therapy university programmes. Methods: A purpose-designed survey was emailed to the heads of all Australian occupational therapy programmes. The survey gathered qualitative and quantitative data on courses offered, number of students, practice education hours and models, practice education administration and funding, and challenges for stakeholders. All data were summarised and are presented descriptively. Results: Responses were received from 21 (95.5%) Australian university occupational therapy programmes, with a total enrolment of 5569 undergraduate and 659 graduate-entry masters students. Practice education hours were predominantly in the later years of study and used an apprenticeship model for supervision. There was a trend for observation, simulation and service-learning experiences to be placed in the early years of programmes. Participants reported that the increasing student numbers presented difficulties within the changing clinical contexts. There was a call to re-examine the 1000-hour requirement for practice education. Conclusion: Practice education is a critical issue for Australian occupational therapy. Increasing student numbers place mounting financial and resource demands on education programmes and practice education providers. There is a need for a national, collaborative approach to develop guidelines and processes to ensure sustainability relating to practice education.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-169
Number of pages11
JournalAustralian Occupational Therapy Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017


  • Fieldwork
  • Graduate-entry masters
  • Occupational therapy
  • Placements
  • Practice education
  • Regulation
  • Students
  • Undergraduate

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