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Patient and practitioner perceptions of student participation in private practice consultations: A mixed-methods study

Fiona Kent, Karen Richards, Terry Haines, Prue Morgan, Stephen Maloney, Jennifer Keating


The majority of undergraduate physiotherapy clinical education occurs in the public sector in Australia, despite the fact that about half of all graduates enter private practice upon graduation. Private practice physiotherapists provide primary care services for a wide range of conditions, with associated opportunities for student education. The barriers to addressing the imbalance between clinical education and graduate practice warrant investigation. This study combined quantitative patient survey data with qualitative practitioner interview data. Sixty-three patient surveys were collected from four private practices, and practitioner educators (n=4) at these sites were interviewed. The survey data revealed that patients tend to be agreeable to student presence in a consultation but expressed varying preferences regarding the degree of student involvement in their care. Practitioners reported benefits associated with taking on an educator role, including screening students for future recruitment. They also reported barriers to increasing education opportunities for education in private practice, including lack of time, cost and limited skills of students. A need to better prepare practitioners for the role of educator was identified. In conclusion, there is a subset of private practice patients that is agreeable to students providing health services. Routine identification of these patients, and better preparation of both educators and students, may improve the current lack of clinical learning opportunities in private, primary care and physiotherapy clinics. 


education; patient perspective; physiotherapy; private practice; undergraduate

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