Allied health student placements


allied health worker

Building the workforce: allied health student placements in disability

Taking on allied health student placements offers a range of benefits to your organisation and helps grow the broader disability workforce.

For example, taking on students can:

  • Boost your organisation’s allied health recruitment opportunities
  • Develop graduates with the professional skills needed to work in the disability sector – so that they are ready to work for your organisation, or other disability service providers, when they graduate
  • Provide development opportunities for your existing allied health workforce in supervision and leadership roles
  • Improve experiences and outcomes for your participants
  • Highlight opportunities to create partnerships between providers and universities.

Why are student placements needed?

Since the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), demand for allied health professionals in the disability workforce has increased and is continuing to increase. These workers need skills in disability and community work. In this new landscape, student placements are a valuable way to grow the workforce and introduce new, skilled allied health professionals into the sector.

In many regions the traditional model of clinical placements is evolving into a collaborative approach between universities and providers to design placements that maximise benefits for both students and providers. Examples include providers offering longer or additional sessions for student-led therapy and small providers sharing students on placement to distribute the supervision load.

Allied health student placements under the NDIS present new challenges and opportunities for providers, clinical educators, students and universities.

Providers need to recover costs for these placements by building them into their business models. This requires an understanding of the benefits student placements can bring to both the organisation and the sector.

Six ways student placements can benefit your business

1. Increased recruitment pool of allied health professionals for your organisation:

Students who have completed placements in a particular service area, such as disability, tend to look for jobs in that area once they are qualified. An added bonus is that when these graduates do start work they bring with them not only their clinical skills but also important knowledge about how the organisation operates.

2. NDIS participants enjoy working with students:

Research from The University of Sydney Future Allies project shows many people with a disability enjoy working with students who are appropriately supported. When students deliver services under supervision they have to be more analytical, explaining the knowledge they are acquiring—for example, the working of joints or muscles. This extra detail teaches participants more about themselves and the value of certain services. This complements the expert services delivered by allied health professionals.

The research also said participants like to feel they are helping students learn and develop. Such student placements need to be supported with participant choice and control values, and an informed consent process.

3. Undertaking projects to improve areas of your organization:

Your organisation can work with the university to select areas for student research and projects, which can contribute to quality improvement projects you may not otherwise have the time to complete. Examples could include researching and presenting information on new assessments and treatments for therapists based on best practice, or client and staff information sheets.

4. Staff development:

Your therapist team can build valuable leadership and analytical skills, and improve their professional scope and career satisfaction. Allied health professionals have also reported that helping students with their learnings while on placements has improved their own practice as well.

5. Enhanced organisational capacity:

Students can help build new service delivery options for an organisation that previously may not have existed. This may include student-led groups, education sessions for participants and families, developing resource materials for participants or staff development sessions.

6. Building positive learning cultures:

Student placements can help create positive learning cultures within organisations as students bring enthusiasm to learn and new ideas from other sectors.

Next steps
If you deliver allied health services and want to find out more about taking on allied heath student placements:

  • Talk directly to your local university allied health program directors, or University Department of Rural Health to understand the opportunities in your area
  • Look through the resources linked below for information and support tools.

Support resources
For more information, including resources for providers, educators, students and participants, visit:

  • The Future Allies resources for better placements, a multi-university project to develop allied health student education in the NDIS
  • Flinders University’s Open Learning course Building the Allied Health Workforce for an NDIS Future
  • My Support Space, a resource pack developed through a Monash University project for remote supervision of allied health students in a Supported Independent Living facility.
    These are free resources, with tools and information to help shape provider relationships with their local university programs for meaningful and sustainable student placements.

Providers in regional areas can also link with one of the University Departments of Rural Health (UDRHs) to understand more about the additional supports available to students in their area.

For more information on how the National Disability Insurance Agency views student placements see the FAQ page in the provider toolkit.