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Tips For Getting Clinical Supervision Even When Your Manager Is Busy

Published on: 12 May 2023

Clinical Supervision Tips

Written by Dean Malpass

One of the consequences of the pressure currently being placed on healthcare services and organisations across the country is the lack of time and resources being allocated to develop staff.

While heads of service and HR departments might think (and say) this is being done, the reality is that this has to be delivered by middle managers who are also responsible for delivering frontline services. As a result, effective supervision and support is one of the first things to “disappear” when time pressures mount.

This is problematic for all groups of staff, but it can be particularly detrimental for those who are newly qualified or at the early stages of their career. It is also an ongoing source of disappointment and frustration for all involved.


However, there are a few things you can do to try and improve the situation:

  1. Have a discussion with your current supervisor/manager and explain the impact the situation is having on you. Listen to them and try to understand their position (tactical empathy) but try to keep the discussion focused on the situation and how it is affecting you rather than any of the people involved. This should reduce the risk of any clashes of ego, or emotional reactions and promote a more constructive discussion on how progress can be made. 

  2. Seek out a clinical supervisor who has the time and enthusiasm to support you. It doesn't really matter if this person is from the same speciality as you, or is even within the same organisation. Many professionals in multi-disciplinary teams end up being supervised by those in different specialities. What matters is that they are willing and able to supervise you and help you reflect. Most organisations should be able to sign-post you to internal supervisors, so ask for recommendations.

  3. Use your professional networks to seek out a mentor. Many of us are members of professional bodies and networks that have mentorship functions. It may take time but stick at it and find a mentor that you connect with and who can provide you with useful guidance and support. You could even use social media such as Twitter or LinkedIn to identify people to approach based on their role or experience.

  4. Be introspective and try to identify the areas you need and want to develop. Prioritise the areas which are most important and avoid the temptation to tackle everything at once. Make sure that your priority areas also support your overall career strategy.  For example, if your goal is to become a psychiatrist, prioritise interpersonal skills, communication skills, and risk assessment skills. Knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of the reproductive system can wait!   

Taking positive action to try and improve the level of supervision and support you get in your role not only helps your career but also safeguards patients. It could also encourage others to do the same thereby helping the system to improve.


Dean Malpass is a registered mental health nurse and chartered manager and was previously a regional nursing director (Midlands and Wales). He currently provides consultancy services (