Clinical placements in private practice for physiotherapy students are perceived as safe and beneficial for students, private practices and universities: a national mixed-methods study
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Question: What are the extent and characteristics of clinical placements in private practice for physiotherapy students? What do university clinical education managers perceive to be the benefits, risks, barriers and enablers of clinical placements in private practice for physiotherapy students? What training and support are available for private practitioners?
Design: Mixed methods study combining a national survey and in-depth, semi-structured focus group interviews. Participants: Twenty clinical education managers from Australian universities who had graduating students in entry-level physiotherapy programs in 2017 (95% response rate) responded to the survey with data on 2,000 students. Twelve clinical education managers participated in the focus groups.
Results: It was found that 44% of physiotherapy graduates in Australia in 2017 completed a 5-week private practice placement. Private practice placement experiences were perceived to be safe and beneficial for students, private practices and universities. The main risks identified by clinical education managers were related to the quality and consistency of the student's experience on placement and not risks to service or clients. The main perceived barriers were time costs (both practitioner and university clinical education managers) and perceived lost earning capacity. Clinical education managers emphasised that more time and resources to establish and support private practitioners would enable them to reduce risk and overcome barriers to increasing private practice placement capacity and quality. Engaging private practitioners and working collaboratively appear vital for establishing, monitoring and supporting private practice placements.
Conclusion: By working collaboratively, universities and private practice physiotherapists can enhance private practice placement capacity and quality.
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