What is clinical supervision for?

The Australian Clinical Supervision Association (ACSA) defines supervision as:

‘A formal professional relationship between two or more people in designated roles, which facilitates reflective practice, explores ethical issues, and develops skills.’[2] The ACSA emphasises that it is not based on a hierarchical relationship or culture, and that the power lies with the supervisee.

The chief purpose of clinical supervision is to provide a space for the supervisees to discuss and reflect on the nursing work they are doing with their clients. This can take place one on one or in a group setting. Trust and confidentiality are essential components of good supervision.

Ideally, a qualified, external supervisor, with specific knowledge of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) sector, who is not the nurse’s line manager, is best positioned to provide clinical supervision. Supervision is not about performance appraisal. Good supervision allows for a discussion to unfold and grow and for themes to develop. It allows the supervisees to expand their understanding of their client's condition and life situation. It also provides an opportunity for the supervisees to reflect on their own strengths, deficits and needs, to examine their practice and the rationale for their approach, promoting professional growth and therapeutic awareness.[3] Of equal importance is the space it provides for a conversation to develop about the emotional impact of the work. Supervision provides a forum for the supervisees to talk about the toll the work might be taking on them as clinicians, and identify strategies to deal with this situation.   One of the roles of the supervisor is to provide support as well as a critical and positive endorsement of the supervisee’s work.

The supervisor maintains a clear boundary between the supervisee and the employer and will only report any concerns to the employer if he or she senses that the supervisee is at risk, or is placing clients at risk.