Over the years St.Amant has welcomed a number of practicum students on-site. However, this year, the pandemic has forced the organization’s students to complete their practicums virtually. Supervisors and students alike agree that virtual practicums exceeded their expectations.
In the past, practicum students studying music therapy came to St.Amant once a week for five hours for a total of 12 weeks. During the pandemic, their placement remained the same in terms of length and hours, but the students had more flexibility.
“They didn’t have a fixed schedule. They could pop in for an hour on Monday, for example,” said Music Therapist, Abigail Sones.
Depending on their field of study, St.Amant also welcomes students from out of province. Speech-Language Pathologist, Lindsay Morris, supervised a student who completed their practicum from Halifax. Contrary to what some might think, the two-hour time difference between Winnipeg and Halifax wasn’t problematic.
“The team at St.Amant was mindful about the time difference,” said Lawson Morassutti, Lindsay Morris’s practicum student. “They knew that if there was an appointment at 5:00 p.m. in Winnipeg for example, that that would fall into my evening time so they made it optional so I didn’t feel pressure to attend.”
One of the biggest challenges Abigail and Lindsay encountered during the virtual practicums was building a connection with their students. “With in-person placements, you get to know your students really well,” said Abigail. “The main reason for that is that you work on-site together, you have lunch together, you drive to and from places in the community together. But with virtual placements the student pops in for their session and then they’re gone. If you, as a supervisor, aren’t careful, your student might end up feeling lonely and isolated.” Supervisors Abigail and Lindsay have had to be attentive and proactive to ensure their students felt connected to the clinical team.
“Abigail made great efforts to make sure I felt included,” said Abigail’s practicum student, Ryan Waschuk. “We did a lot of extra supervision time where before or after sessions we would chat for an hour on Zoom about schooling, self-care, the weather—just to stay connected. The clinical team also made me feel very welcome and supported. Some members from different disciplines reached out to me and said, ‘If you need anything, send us an email and we’ll make it happen. We’re here to help you succeed.’ Hearing that was super helpful and super nice.”
Despite the challenges brought on by virtual placements, Abigail and Lindsay were blown away by their students. “I was impressed with the caliber of the work my student provided,” said Abigail.
Practicums teach students an invaluable lesson, which is how to serve a population who is underrepresented in textbooks.
“What practicum students read in textbooks isn’t always applicable to real life,” said Lindsay. “So when they come to St.Amant, they need to adapt what they learned to better serve the people we support.”
As much as they’re important for students, practicums are also instrumental for St.Amant. They allow clinical professionals to reflect on the way they deliver services.
“It’s neat watching students work with my clients because people respond differently to different people,” said Abigail.“When I’m supervising I have the opportunity to watch my clients respond to someone who isn’t me and that helps me learn more about my clients and about how I can improve the way I support them.”
Both Ryan and Lawson have described St.Amant as their favourite practicum thus far.
“St.Amant was my favourite practicum placement out of the four I’ve done,” said Ryan. “I’ve discussed this with Abigail, and at some point post-pandemic, I will come by in-person and say hello.”