The COVID-19 pandemic and the introduction of public health restrictions challenged health and social care service delivery and had unforeseen consequences for practice-based learning policies and procedures. While acute health services focussed on the urgent demands of COVID-19 patients, outpatient, community, social care and GP service providers rapidly pivoted their service delivery models towards telehealth, online and virtual delivery. In the UK, the lockdown resulted in many face-to-face practice placements being cancelled or ending abruptly. Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) faced the unprecedented challenge of facilitating practice-based learning for thousands of allied health professional students in line with social restrictions, whilst maintaining educational and professional standards. Many professions have an hours-based practice education standard embedded in professional accreditation and regulatory processes; occupational therapy programmes require a minimum of 1000 hours practice education (Thomas & Penman, 2019), Canadian physiotherapy programmes require students to complete a minimum of 1025 hours (Canadian Council of Physiotherapy University Programmes, 2019), UK speech pathology programmes require completion of 150 sessions (Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, 2021), and Australian social work programmes require a minimum of 1000 hours practice-based learning (Brown et al., 2015). We observed that such requirements resulted in delays in student graduations during this period. Even when students had been assessed to have met all the required competencies, the hours requirement mandated in their degree programmes prevented students from graduating. The urgent need to increase the health workforce acted as a driver for creativity and innovation and the motivation to continue progressing students through their degrees to join the workforce. While the curriculum accreditation requirements regarding the number of hours was not adjusted, professional bodies encouraged the implementation of innovative practice-based learning strategies, which have provided a unique opportunity to learn from students’, HEIs’ and practice educators’ experiences. The aim of this article is to reflect on our learning of practice-based education across a range of allied health professions, during this time, and to reconsider the requirement for hours-based standards of practice-based education.

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McKay, E., Thomas, Y. & Penman, M. 2022, 'Learning from COVID-19 Experiences to Progress System Change in Practice Education', International Journal of Practice-based Learning in Health and Social Care, 10(1), pp. 67-70. https://doi.org/10.18552/ijpblhsc.v10i1.727

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Last updated: 18 November 2022
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