Traditional vs Non Traditional Practice Education….What’s in a word?

Claire Hedley, OT Practice Education Lead, NHS NES, @claireAHPed

I am an Occupational Therapist, currently on secondment with NHS NES to recover, modernise and ensure sustainable Practice Education into the future. In my conversations throughout this secondment, I am repeatedly hearing the phrases traditional and non-traditional placements. What do we mean by this terminology and is it still relevant in our current placement provision?

Tradition is defined as handed down from age to age and habitually done. Traditions have been an important component of human societies since the dawn of time, they fulfill key criteria for achieving our sense of Being, Belonging, Believing. The word traditional often means safety and comfort to those who are hesitant to explore new boundaries. In terms of practice education, the traditional method of placement education appears to place students in a hospital or community setting to experience an AHP’s role. Although there are a large majority of AHP’s that do work in this environment and deliver exceptional placements, there are many who work in other varied and successful settings, that would be classed as non-traditional, still delivering excellent learning experiences.

Conversely non-traditional is defined as different from what was usual in the past, moving away from what is habitually done. Non-traditional means taking a path not often travelled, going places few have seen, experiencing things others only dream about and reaping the rewards those experiences bring with them. Non traditional can be uncomfortable and can force you to move out of your safety zone. Non -traditional Practice Education is increasingly happening with charities, 3rd sectors and different organisations offering valuable practice education to our students, in response to our changing society.

In terms of delivery of placement, it could be argued that it much easier to be traditional, to stay safe and within our comfort zone and not push those boundaries. However, as AHP’s, we need to push those boundaries. Students report back that non-traditional placements and non-traditional models of delivery eg Long arm supervision, Peer Assisted Learning and Project Based are often commented on as not being as valuable a learning experience and lack the traditional learning that is essential to be an effective practioner– is this really the case? Or do we, as AHP’s need to be braver and bolder at accepting what we are preparing our students for – a modern, innovative and progressive society and workplace.

To ensure that all placements are given equal credit, I would suggest that we need to consider the use of the terminology; non-traditional and traditional placements. Should we refer to practice education as quite simply placements.



1 Comment

  1. Claire, thank you for highlighting this issue and sharing your reflections…As an AHP who has dipped a toe statutory, voluntary, NHS bank and currently setting up as a sole trader Independent practitioner/aspiring social enterprise… l’m with you on your proposal of ‘simply placements’ -inclusive, equally regarded and embracing of AHPs and the spheres we can and do work in in all their diversity. Good luck with your secondment. Kind regards Fiona Wilson ‘Creative Wellbeing Occupational Therapist’ @sandpiperartsedinburgh

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