Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
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Enablers and barriers to effective clinical supervision in the workplace: a rapid evidence review

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journal contribution
posted on 2021-10-07, 11:27 authored by Charlotte Rothwell, Amelia Kehoe, Sophia Farhene Farook, Jan IllingJan Illing

Objectives: We aimed to review the international literature to understand the enablers of and barriers to effective clinical supervision in the workplace and identify the benefits of effective clinical supervision.

Design: A rapid evidence review.

Data sources: Five databases (CINAHL, OVID Embase, OVID Medline, OVID PsycInfo and ProQuest) were searched to ensure inclusion and breadth of healthcare professionals.

Eligibility criteria: Studies identifying enablers and barriers to effective clinical supervision across healthcare professionals in a Western context between 1 January 2009 and 12 March 2019.

Data extraction and synthesis: An extraction framework with a detailed inclusion/exclusion criteria to ensure rigour was used to extract data. Data were analysed using a thematic qualitative synthesis. These themes were used to answer the research objectives.

Results: The search identified 15 922 papers, reduced to 809 papers following the removal of duplicates and papers outside the inclusion criteria, with 135 papers being included in the full review. Enablers identified included regular supervision, occurs within protected time, in a private space and delivered flexibly. Additional enablers included supervisees being offered a choice of supervisor; supervision based on mutual trust and a positive relationship; a cultural understanding between supervisor and supervisee; a shared understanding of the purpose of supervision, based on individual needs, focused on enhancing knowledge and skills; training and feedback being provided for supervisors; and use of a mixed supervisor model, delivered by several supervisors, or by those trained to manage the overlapping (and potentially conflicting) needs of the individual and the service. Barriers included a lack of time, space and trust. A lack of shared understanding to the purpose of the supervision, and a lack of ongoing support and engagement from leadership and organisations were also found to be barriers to effective clinical supervision.

Conclusions: This review identified several enablers of and barriers to effective clinical supervision and the subsequent benefits of effective clinical supervision in a healthcare setting.


HPEC Funding Support | Funder: RCSI | Grant ID: RCSI-HPEC-2021



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Published Citation

Rothwell C, Kehoe A, Farook SF, Illing J. Enablers and barriers to effective clinical supervision in the workplace: a rapid evidence review. BMJ Open. 2021;11(9):e052929.

Publication Date

28 September 2021

PubMed ID



  • Health Professions Education Centre

Research Area

  • Health Professions Education




  • Published Version (Version of Record)