Researchers want answers on how unpaid work impacts students


Like students in many fields, those pursuing a career as therapists, physiotherapists, and speech pathologists will need to work full-time, unpaid supervised clinical placements.

Researchers want to better understand how this demanding, unpaid work impacts students.

Desley Simpson leads the Student Resilience Matters project. She is an Occupational Therapy lecturer at CQUniversity and is concerned about the challenges that mandatory industry placements have on regional and mature-aged students.

“Our preliminary results confirm that students are struggling to manage placement commitments alongside the existing juggle of employment, family and study ” Ms Simpson said.

- Advertisement -

“Placement can mean 10 to 20 weeks or so doing full-time in workplaces, often away from their home base and support systems.”

Through the project, Simpson hopes she can identify practices and support structures that can help students build resilience that can help them cope with the additional demands on their time.

Researcher Desley Simpson

“For instance, an individual’s sense of spirituality or purpose, as well as other variables such as previous exposure to adversity, may influence their resilience,” she explained.

“Ultimately, with this knowledge, we can look at developing evidence-informed resilience interventions in the curriculum.”

- Advertisement -

While more than 125 occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech pathology students have responded to the study, the project is ongoing and more respondents are required. Anyone interested in finding out more about the project and taking part are encouraged to visit the Student Resilience Matters website.

An area of concern

The Federal Government’s University Accord report, released last month, referred to the additional, unpaid work as “placement poverty.” It recommended that the government fund placements for teaching and nursing. It also called for businesses and government bodies to jointly fund placements in other courses.

While the financial repercussions of taking so much time off is a key issue, it isn’t the only concern.

“But it’s not as simple as addressing the financial issues. For instance, occupational therapy relies on the goodwill and generosity of clinical supervisors to take students on for an extended period of time. It’s a demanding but rewarding time for both students and supervisors. Students need to be prepared beforehand, financially and emotionally. We are exploring whether resilience curriculum interventions might help,” Simpson said.

Share This Article