Developing and evaluating a clinical supervision training program for mental health nurses

Developing and evaluating

The continued support for nurses through education and training is fundamental to the success and growth of the profession.

This is particularly relevant within mental health nursing, where staff often face complex and emotionally challenging circumstances. The past decades have seen a growth in interest and understanding of workplace support within mental health settings through formalised Clinical Supervision (CS).1 CS typically involves facilitated discussion around topics of professional relevance and concern. With support from a trained supervisor, CS is a formalised, psychologically safe practice for reflective thinking and discussion regarding professional development issues, professional boundaries, caseload, decision-making regarding clinical issues, and staff interpersonal issues.2 Research evaluating the benefits of CS has shown improved support for those working in mental health, developing deeper nursing competence and knowledge, and reducing burnout.1

Adequate training is required for individuals to be able to provide effective CS.

CS provided without robust training is more likely to be inadequate, counter-productive, or potentially harmful to individuals and workplace cultures.3 People who receive poor supervision are likely to provide poor supervision themselves.4 However, their divergent views in professional circles and in the literature on how much training is required for mental health nurses to be proficient in providing CS.

In lieu of formalised national standards for training in Clinical Supervision, training is based upon varied and unsystematic recommendations, with little evaluation evidence published to support training programs.5

The Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Research and Education Group at UniSA have worked with several stakeholders to develop a statewide program providing CS training to mental health nurses employed across a range of practice settings. Supported by local, national, and international speakers, the online program includes seven interactive sessions covering the theoretical and practical considerations for implementing successful and sustained CS within an organisation. These sessions are supported by a guided workbook and homework activities linked to each session. We are currently completing a formalised evaluation that aims to investigate the program’s effect over time on participants’ confidence and competence regarding CS and identify workplace benefits and barriers to ongoing clinical supervision.

1 Sharrock J, Bradley P, Marks P, Stewart S, Love B, King R, et al. Clinical supervision for nurses & midwives: Position Statement: Australian College of Nursing; 2019.
2 Thomas M, Isobel S. ‘A different kind of space’: Mixed methods evaluation of facilitated reflective practice groups for nurses in an acute inpatient mental health unit. Arch Psychiatr Nurs. 2019;33(6):154-9.
3 Beddoe L. Harmful supervision: A commentary. The Clinical Supervisor. 2017;36(1):88-101.
4 Barnett JE, Molzon CH. Clinical supervision of psychotherapy: essential ethics issues for supervisors and supervisees. Journal of Clinical Psychology. 2014;70(11):1051-61.
5 Milne DL, Sheikh AI, Pattison S, Wilkinson A. Evidence-based training for clinical supervisors: a systematic review of 11 controlled studies. The Clinical Supervisor. 2011;30(1):53-71.

Nicholas Procter, Joshua McDonough and Kate Rhodes are all located at UniSA Clinical and Health Sciences, University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

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