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Evaluation of clinical sites used for training undergraduate physiotherapy students : factors that may impact on learning

Williams, L. G. ; Ernstzen, Dawn Verna ; Statham, Susan B. ; Hanekom, S. D. (2014-10)

CITATION: Williams, L.G., Ernstzen, D.V., Statham, S.B. & Hanekom, S.D. 2014. Evaluation of clinical sites used for training undergraduate physiotherapy students: Factors that may impact on learning. African Journal of Health Professions Education, 6(2): 207-210, doi:10.7196/AJHPE.528.

The original publication is available at http://www.ajhpe.org.za

Publication of this article was funded by the Stellenbosch University Open Access Fund.


Background. Clinical education forms an integral part of the training of undergraduate healthcare students. Clinical learning and education can be influenced by a number of factors. Objectives. To evaluate clinical service sites used to train undergraduate physiotherapy students at Stellenbosch University, in terms of: (i) the suit­ability of the site as a training facility; and (ii) the range of clinical problems students encounter at these clinical service sites. Methods. A descriptive study was conducted. Data were gathered through structured clinical site visits, staff interviews and student record sheets documenting the number and type of patients students encountered at the clinical service sites. Results. Seven of the nine clinical sites used for training were evaluated. Close proximity to the Faculty was an identified strength of three of the sites. There were opportunities for the expansion of multidisciplinary services and group treatment classes. There were safety concerns at most of the sites visited. The number of qualified physiotherapists was low and there was also a lack of basic equipment needed for patient management at more than half of the clinical sites. Students’ exposure to the various fields of physiotherapy varied greatly at the tertiary service settings versus primary healthcare settings. On average students saw only two patients per day during a 5-hour clinical day. Conclusion. The suitability of healthcare service sites for training undergraduate students should be carefully evaluated prior to commencing training at these sites. The development of good clinical training sites for undergraduate healthcare students requires the availability of adequate resources such as equipment, an adequate complement of clinical staff and effective measures to ensure student and patient safety.

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