HCPC doesn’t have specific requirements for how to provide supervision. However, the guidance below sets out a number of factors that you should consider to help ensure supervision is effective, and that it meets the needs and expectations of the supervisee.
Establishing a supervision agreement between you and your supervisee, before commencing supervision, will also help make both your expectations and responsibilities clear. This is important for ensuring a positive and supportive working relationship is established from the start.
We have developed a supervision agreement template, which sets out a list of factors that you could consider agreeing with your supervisee from the outset. Your professional body or employer may also have a supervision agreement or contract that you should use.
It’s also important that you plan each of your sessions, to help ensure your supervision remains focused. Our supervision recording template provides an example of how you could structure your discussions, which you may wish to use.
Guidance for supervisors
Having the right supervisor who can help the supervisee achieve their professional development goals is a crucial part to effective supervision. As important, is a positive, professional relationship based on mutual trust and respect between supervisee and supervisor.
Research suggests that supervision is most effective when supervisee’s can choose their own supervisor, to meet their learning objectives and cultural needs. However, it is recognised that this may not always be possible and that you may be paired with a supervisee who you do not know but are able to build that positive, professional relationship with. It can take time for relationships to develop, but regular and protected time for supervision can help facilitate this.
While there is flexibility, we would expect you only to supervise for areas within your scope of practice, and in areas for which you have received appropriate training and support. If you are employed, your employer may also have requirements for supervisors, which you will be required to follow. Your employer and/or your professional body may also have supervision training that you can undertake.
Though not an exhaustive list, below are a few more examples of the types of characteristics considered important when providing supervision, as well as technical competence.
- Be competent in providing the supervision required, including individual or group supervision when necessary.
- Be a role model and mentor, by offering support and encouraging the supervisee to identify solutions.
- Be culturally competent towards the supervisee and service users, display respect and compassion towards others and encourage a positive and inclusive working environment.
- Be committed and motivated to sharing their knowledge and experience and be ready to challenge poor behaviours.
- Communicate effectively and be able to provide clear and constructive feedback.
- Reflect on their supervisory skills and be open to receiving feedback. They should engage with relevant supervisory training and be willing to adapt their approach where necessary.
Supervisors can be in a different profession to the supervisee provided that they have the appropriate skills, knowledge and experience to conduct the supervision being requested, and have received appropriate training.
When this happens, we would expect supervisors to take the time to understand any differences in the professions/roles and to identify any limitations to the supervision they can provide. This may involve seeking advice and support from senior colleagues in the supervisee’s profession as appropriate. We would also expect supervisors to have received appropriate training and support, to provide the supervision required.
Professional and managerial supervision should be clearly distinguished, so it can be good practice to receive these types of supervision from different people. When this happens, both the professional and managerial supervisor will need to work together to ensure that there is an appropriate balance of each supervision type.
What to do when things go wrong
Maintaining a supportive, positive and professional relationship is an essential part to effective supervision. However, unfortunately things can at times go wrong and relationships can break down, for example, due to a clash of personalities between participants.
When this happens, you should speak with your supervisee in the first instance, to try and identify a solution between you. It might be that you decide an alternative supervisor is required.
If you do not feel comfortable speaking with your supervisee, or if you feel that this has not resolved your concerns, you should raise this with your manager and escalate as necessary, seeking advice from your trade union or professional body where appropriate.
Supervision can often be thought of as one-to-one meetings. However, supervision can in fact take many different forms such as:
- One-to-one meetings;
- Peer supervision;
- Group supervision (such as with a peer group or with a facilitator);
- Ad hoc supervision or informal meetings; and
- Virtual supervision.
You may even decide to undertake supervision through a combination of the above.
Each mode has different benefits, and there will be situations where certain modes of supervision will be more useful than others. For example, a benefit of group supervision is that it provides you with input from multiple peers, which can raise awareness of and encourage alternative interventions or actions.
However, if the supervisee has an additional learning objective, then one-to-one supervision may be more appropriate so that you can provide more targeted advice. One-to-one supervision might also be more appropriate for individuals requiring support with undertaking a new task that is outside of their scope of practice.
What is important is that the supervision is regular and structured with a clear focus and set of objectives, and that the type of supervision carried out is appropriate to meet these expectations. You should have a discussion with the supervisee from the outset, to help determine what will work best for them. Your professional body may also have additional guidance or training to help you provide supervision in the modality requested.
When talking about the level of supervision, we mean the proximity your supervisor has to your practice. It’s important to remember that supervision is not about observing a person’s practice, which means that it does not necessarily have to take place in physical proximity.
Supervision can provide different levels of support, for example, it can be:
- Direct, where a supervisor provides face to face guidance and support;
- Indirect, where a supervisor is readily available and within close proximity to provide support; or
- Remote, where a supervisor will be available to provide guidance, but will not directly oversee the tasks being undertaken. This may be undertaken through video conferencing or phone call.
What is appropriate will depend on the operational and clinical context that you are working in. It will also depend on whether the supervisee has the appropriate knowledge and skills to undertake activities independently.
Remote supervision may be appropriate or even necessary for those that work in less accessible locations, where direct or indirect supervision is not available. This can also be helpful when providing more pastoral support. However, if the supervision requires an observation of another’s clinical practice, then either direct or indirect supervision would be more appropriate.
When providing supervision, it’s important that you do so safely and effectively, which means that you must continue to provide the appropriate level of support. To achieve this, you should take the time to understand your supervisee’s needs and preferences and identify ways to best support them. This will require you to be flexible and modify your approach as appropriate. A good way to achieve this is by having a discussion with your supervisee from the outset.
If you are providing supervision externally and your supervisee is employed, it’s important that you understand the policies and procedures of the supervisee’s organisation, so that you are clear about what is expected of you and what your responsibilities are. This should be discussed from the outset, when agreeing the approach your supervision sessions will take.
Supervision can have multiple objectives. For example, supervisory activities may include:
- Structured discussions of your supervisees work including clinical caseloads
- Assistance with particular tasks or challenges
- Wellbeing checks
- Workload planning
- Debriefing discussions
Whatever the activity might be, supervision should be person centred and led by the supervisee. This means that the focus of supervision will vary for each professional, and will depend on factors such as experience, scope of practice and learning goals. Both you and the supervisee should have a shared understanding of the purpose of the activity so that expectations and learning needs are met.
Supervision should also focus on sharing and enhancing knowledge, to support professional development and service delivery. To achieve this, it’s important that the supervision is structured with a clear focus and set of goals, which can be reviewed and evaluated against on a regular basis.
When providing supervision, it’s also important that you are able to adapt your style to meet the supervisee’s needs. It’s also important to use these sessions to discuss the wellbeing of the supervisee, and to identify any factors that could impact their ability to achieve goals set or work effectively.
To help focus your supervision, you should have a discussion with your supervisee from the outset, to understand their specific aims and objectives. You may also find it useful to look at our supervision recording template, which provides some suggestions for how you might want to structure and focus your supervision meetings.
To be effective, it’s important that you provide the right amount of support so that the supervisee can achieve their intended learning objectives. It’s also important that you prioritise these activities and engage proactively.
The HCPC don’t specify the amount of supervision registrants should receive, as this will vary depending on the supervisee’s individual needs, and other factors such as their working pattern and environment. More frequent supervision may also be required if the supervisee is newly qualified, or recently started a new role.
If the supervisee is employed, there could also be an employer policy for staff to receive a certain amount of supervision, which they would be required to follow. Your professional body may also have further guidance or requirements for your profession, which you will be required to meet.
Supervision is most effective when offered regularly, such as weekly or fortnightly sessions. This is because regular supervision can help you to develop a good working relationship, which can in turn encourage more open and honest conversations. Setting aside protected time that suits both your work schedules will help ensure the regularity of your supervision.
However, flexibility is also important, and you may need to develop new approaches to supervision to respond to operational demands or the needs of both participants. This might mean that the supervision takes place at different times of the day, to accommodate shift patterns and the demands of the service. You may also want to adjust the amount of supervision provided to respond to any challenges experienced. If you are prevented from providing supervision as planned, it’s important that you re-arrange the session to another more appropriate time.
Ad hoc supervision, which can often occur outside of scheduled supervision sessions, is also an important part to effective supervision and should be provided in cases of need.
No learner is the same, which means that some supervisees may require a greater amount of supervision than others. From the outset, you should be willing to learn about your supervisee’s needs, to help them to identify the appropriate amount of supervision for them. You should also be flexible and willing to meet on an ad hoc basis, to respond to staff issues as and when they arise.
Where your supervision takes place will depend on the focus of the activity. It may also depend on the options available to you in your place of work.
Wherever you choose to hold your supervision, having an open, honest and supportive environment, where the supervisee feels confident to reflect on their practice and discuss any concerns, is crucial. Having a supportive environment can also help to develop a more trusting and open relationship, which is important for identifying training and support needs more effectively.
As a supervisor, it will be your responsibility to help create a positive and supportive environment for your supervisee. To help identify an appropriate supervisory environment, you might wish to consider the following:
- Will you require access to specific facilities, resources or equipment?
- Is there sufficient privacy, and will you be able to maintain confidentiality?
- Is there an acceptable level of background noise?
- Will you be disrupted or distracted?
It is also good practice to establish a supervision agreement from the outset between both you and the supervisee, setting out how you will approach the supervision and respective roles and responsibilities.
Our supervision agreement template provides a set of factors that you could consider including in a future agreement, should you wish to establish one. If employed, your employer may have their own supervision contract that you would be expected to use. Your professional body may also have examples or templates that you could consider.
The ability to have confidential discussions is an essential part in ensuring effective supervision as it helps ensure open and honest conversations, without the fear of reprisal. Having a private space to conduct the supervision, so that your discussions can remain confidential is essential. If you are providing supervision remotely, you should make sure that the systems you use are secure and that you are abiding by data protection requirements.
While confidentiality is important, there could be circumstances which require information to be shared. This could be when both parties have consented, such as when there is learning point that would be beneficial to share. However, there could also be instances where the consent of parties is not required. For example, confidentiality requirements should be overridden if you become aware of unethical or illegal practices which would raise concerns about the supervisee’s fitness to practise. Alternately, you may have concerns about the supervisee’s personal wellbeing, or identify a safeguarding concern, which you may be required to disclose.
All registrants have a professional responsibility to report concerns about the safety or wellbeing of service users or others. If you have concerns about the fitness to practise of a supervisee, or you believe that they are a risk to the public or to the public’s confidence in the profession, you must raise your concern with us. You can read more on how to raise concerns here.
If you have concerns about the wellbeing of a supervisee, it may be appropriate to raise these with the supervisee directly, so that you can take steps to address your concerns together, without having to breach confidentiality.
If you don’t feel confident speaking with your supervisee directly, then you should raise your concerns with either your manager or the supervisee’s employer in the first instance and escalate as necessary. You should seek advice from your trade union or professional body where appropriate.
It’s important that you and your supervisor have a shared understanding, from the outset, about confidentiality and when information may need to be shared. A good way to do this is by establishing a supervision agreement between you both, as mentioned above.
As a supervisor, it’s important that you provide constructive, regular and timely feedback, so that the supervisee can reflect on their practice and develop professionally.
Receiving constructive feedback can at times be difficult, even when invited. It’s therefore important that feedback is delivered with compassion and understanding. It’s also important that you highlight areas of good practice and what went well, to encourage and motivate the supervisee.
As a health and care professional, you will always be learning and developing, so the importance of receiving and acting on feedback goes both ways. When supervising, you should ask for feedback from your supervisee to understand what you are doing well or identify how your approach could be modified or improved.
It's important that supervisee’s take notes and keep a detailed record of their supervision sessions, as these can be used as evidence of their CPD at renewal. These notes should be shared with and signed by both parties once you have agreed that they are a true record.
HCPC Statement on Student Supervision
If you’re involved with the supervision of students, take a look at our statement on student supervision that sets out our broad expectations regarding registrant’s participation in the supervision of students from HCPC approved programmes.