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31-03-2020 | Original Article | Uitgave 2/2020 Open Access

Perspectives on Medical Education 2/2020

Developing occupational therapists’ capabilities for decision-making capacity assessments: how does a support role facilitate workplace learning?

Perspectives on Medical Education > Uitgave 2/2020
Janine Matus, Sharon Mickan, Christy Noble
Belangrijke opmerkingen
Department and institution to which this work should be attributed: Allied Health, Gold Coast Health, Gold Coast, Australia.
Editor’s Note: Commentary by: Silvia Langlois, https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s40037-020-00575-3.



Healthcare practitioners are required to develop capabilities in an effective and efficient manner. Yet, developing capabilities in healthcare settings can be challenging due to the unpredictable nature of practice and increasing workloads. Unsurprisingly, healthcare practitioner development is often situated outside of practice, for example in formal teaching sessions. Supporting practitioners to develop capabilities through engagement with day-to-day practice, whilst advantageous in terms of authenticity and being highly valued, remains a key challenge for healthcare educators. This qualitative interview study aimed to explain, from the learner’s perspective, how a dedicated support role develops occupational therapists’ capability to contribute to decision-making capacity assessments.


Individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of 12 occupational therapists. Informed by workplace learning theory, interview transcripts were analyzed using thematic analysis process.


Participants provided rich descriptions of how they developed in their capability to engage in decision-making capacity assessments. Participants reported that their learning was facilitated by the dedicated support role in three key ways: 1) structuring a journey of learning, 2) providing tailored guidance, and 3) fostering a supportive learning environment.


Participants valued the authentic workplace learning opportunities afforded by the dedicated support role. Findings suggest that capabilities, such as decision-making capacity assessment, can be developed through practice when enriched by a dedicated support role. However, further research examining the sustainability and transferability of this model and its application to other capabilities are warranted.
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