Several strategies for clinical partners and universities are perceived to enhance physiotherapy student engagement in non-metropolitan clinical placements: a mixed-methods study

Alison Heather Francis-Cracknell, Shari Maver, Fiona Kent, Emma Edwards, Ross Iles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Question: What strategies can clinical partners and universities implement to enhance physiotherapy student engagement in non-metropolitan clinical placements? Design: Mixed-method research design combining focus groups and survey. Participants: First-year physiotherapy students from one university at the commencement of their course (n = 26); third-year and fourth-year students who had completed a
non-metropolitan placement (n = 39 survey, n = 25 focus group); and clinical educators from three nonmetropolitan clinical sites (n = 15). Intervention: The cohort of first-year physiotherapy students was surveyed to establish their perceptions regarding non-metropolitan clinical education placements. A survey and four focus groups were conducted with third-year and fourth-year students after they had
attended non-metropolitan clinical placements, to explore recent experiences. Two focus groups were conducted with clinical educators regarding student engagement at non-metropolitan placements. Quantitative data were summarised with descriptive statistics. Qualitative data were analysed using thematic analysis, synthesising the perspectives of students and clinical educators. Results: At the commencement of their physiotherapy course, interest in undertaking a non-metropolitan clinical placement was higher for students with a non-metropolitan upbringing. Concerns about attending non-metropolitan sites included finances, change in living situation, and perceived inferior quality of clinical education. After completing a non-metropolitan placement, four themes were identified in an analysis of student and educator perceptions: individual factors, clinical experience, logistical challenges and strategies for success. Conclusion: Strategies that were perceived to enhance student engagement in non-metropolitan placements included: tailoring preparation for students, paired rather than individual placements, and near-peer presentations for physiotherapy students prior to undertaking non-metropolitan placements. Dedicated clinical coordinator positions at nonmetropolitan sites and assistance in accessing affordable accommodation are likely to positively influence the student experience.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-249
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Physiotherapy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


  • Clinical placements
  • Non-metropolitan
  • Physiotherapy
  • Rural and regional
  • Student

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