CPD practice-based learning: Part 1

In the first in a three-part series, CSP professional adviser Gwyn Owen looks at opportunities for students to complete 1,000 hours of  practice-based learning.


What is practice-based learning?

Practice-based learning is a vital part of pre-registration physiotherapy education.  It is a collaborative learning process through which physiotherapy students develop the behaviours, knowledge and skills needed to assess, diagnose and work with people in order to maximise their capacity for movement. 
Students must successfully complete at least 1,000 hours of practice-based learning in order to graduate. This expectation ensures that graduates have gained experience of how physiotherapy works with a wide range of people in a variety of settings that support the delivery of contemporary physiotherapy practice – including those outside the NHS (www.csp.org.uk/node/1033432).
Investment in practice-based learning is, therefore, key to ensuring that the physiotherapy workforce continues to meet changing patient, population and service needs, and engages in activities that support the growth and transformation of the profession. Today’s students are the physiotherapy workforce of tomorrow.  And that is just one reason why we have a collective responsibility as members to promote quality practice-based learning.  We’ll discuss the responsibilities and benefits of practice-based learning in the second and third articles in this series.  

Why is practice-based learning an issue right now?

As the profession has developed confidence and capacity to demonstrate its impact and value as an effective solution, the demand for physiotherapy has grown – across all settings and sectors. The profession’s success in showing that physiotherapy works is reflected in the increasing number and variety of opportunities available for people to enter the profession.  And in some regions, like the East Midlands, formal support is also available for people seeking to re-enter the profession following a break in practice. See here for more information
The drive to grow the workforce so that supply of physiotherapists keeps pace with demands for physiotherapy services creates a tension around practice-based learning.  While the need for students to amass 1,000 hours of practice-based learning is currently being met, there is a pressing need to build capacity in this area.   A failure to increase capacity risks compromising the profession’s ability to address any workforce shortfalls and its responsiveness to changing patient and service needs.  Action is vital if the growth and transformation of physiotherapy as set out in the CSP’s strategy is to be realised.  

Working together

The CSP has worked with members to develop a set of key messages that assert the society’s existing position on practice-based learning and challenge some of the ‘myths’ that limit its development.  The CSP’s Council and committees have signed up to the key messages – which assert the Society’s position on practice-based learning. 
The key messages have already been used to promote critical conversations at events with CSP members in Wales (last December) and in London last month. They’ve also been used to feed discussions online – on Twitter via #physiotalk last November and a tweetchat hosted by West Midlands English Regional Networks last month, and webinars hosted by the CSP at the start of this year.  
What’s clear from all these events is how the process of bringing people together to look at the topic of practice-based learning creates an exciting space.  It allows members to share good practice, and find solutions to address the barriers to practice-based learning in their practice setting.  
We will be channelling members’ energy and commitment to look at different ways of handling practice-based learning though a campaign of activities that will run throughout the rest of the year.  These activities will bring members together to promote the sustainable development of practice-based learning. 
So why not warm-up for the campaign by using the CSP’s key messages to start a critical conversation in your practice setting about your capacity for practice-based learning?  Or join one to the webinars or discussions coming up soon.  And keep an eye out for the next piece in this set of three which will be looking more closely the benefits of practice-based learning. fl 

Coming soon…

Learning and development practice-based learning webinar series.

  • The next session in the series, which takes place on 22 March, is focused on implementing ‘new’ models of supervision. 
  • A panel discussion titled Practice-based learning: Adding pressure or adding value will take place at this month’s Annual Representative Conference. 
  • A CSP roundtable event will bring together representatives from universities, providers from the independent sector, practice-educators, physiotherapy managers and students to share ideas about building capacity for practice-based learning (by invitation only)  

Key messages

  1. all CSP members have a responsibility to engage in educating future members of the profession – regardless of grade, occupational role or practice setting.
  2. good quality practice-based learning benefits everyone involved, including services and patients. Providing such learning can be the hallmark of a high-quality service.
  3. a wide range of student supervision models can be used to deliver and support practice-based learning.
  4. expanding the capacity of practice-based learning capacity is a vital component in sustaining and building the physiotherapy workforce. It is key to ensuring capacity to meet changing patient care needs leading and delivering new models of care seizing opportunities for new roles.
  5. practice-based learning can occur in any environment or setting in which physiotherapy is delivered
  6. resources to support practice-based learning must be embedded in plans and contracts for service delivery
  7. physiotherapy students undertake placements as learners. Although their presence in the workplace can enhance capacity and productivity, they are supernumerary to a service workforce  
  8. collaboration and sharing in practice-based learning are key to optimising capacity, innovation and building on what works well.
  9. practice-based learning makes up a third of physiotherapy students’ learning. It is a critical component of their preparation for registration and practice.
  10. physiotherapy students graduate with the competence to register as a physiotherapist in the UK, with the knowledge and skills required for safe practice as a healthcare practitioner. 

Gwen Owen

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