Gaining experience in clinical mental health settings is central to the education of health practitioners. To facilitate the ongoing development of knowledge and practice in this area, we performed a review of the literature on clinical placements in mental health settings. Searches in Academic Search Complete, CINAHL, Medline and PsycINFO databases returned 244 records, of which 36 met the selection criteria for this review. Five additional papers were obtained through scanning the reference lists of those papers included from the initial search. The evidence suggests that clinical placements may have multiple benefits (e.g. improving students' skills, knowledge, attitudes towards people with mental health issues and confidence, as well as reducing their fears and anxieties about working in mental health). The location and structure of placements may affect outcomes, with mental health placements in non-mental health settings appearing to have minimal impact on key outcomes. The availability of clinical placements in mental health settings varies considerably among education providers, with some students completing their training without undertaking such structured clinical experiences. Students have generally reported that their placements in mental health settings have been positive and valuable experiences, but have raised concerns about the amount of support they received from education providers and healthcare staff. Several strategies have been shown to enhance clinical placement experiences (e.g. providing students with adequate preparation in the classroom, implementing learning contracts and providing clinical supervision). Educators and healthcare staff need to work together for the betterment of student learning and the healthcare professions.
Happell, B., Gaskin, C. J., Byrne, L., Welch, A., & Gellion, S. (2015). Clinical placements in mental health: A literature review. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 36(1), 44–51. https://doi.org/10.3109/01612840.2014.915899