CPD: practice-based learning: part 2

CSP professional adviser Gwyn Owen discusses some of the issues raised by members at a recent CSP event.

Good quality practice-based learning benefits everyone involved – including services and patients. Its provision affirms the quality of a service. This is just one of the key messages from an exciting campaign of activity focused on working together build capacity for quality practice-based learning.  The benefits of quality practice-based learning was one theme to emerge from an event at last month’s Annual Representative Conference (ARC).  The ‘Practice-based learning: adding pressure or adding value?’ panel discussion, was convened in response to a motion submitted by West Midlands Stewards.
This motion-highlighted members’ concerns about maintaining capacity for quality practice-based learning when services face increasing pressures to do more for less.  The panel, comprising six contrasting voices from across the profession, was chaired by CSP Council chair Catherine Pope.  Panellists were invited to reflect on their experiences of practice-based learning before Catherine opened a discussion.  
The first panellist to speak was Mobeen Janjua, a physiotherapy student at the University of Central Lancashire and vice-chair of the CSP student executive committee.  His account of the highs and lows of practice-based learning clearly resonated with delegates who had had similar experiences as students. Mobeen’s reflections on a succession of placements showed how the behaviours, knowledge and skills gained in one setting transfer, develop and grow as students move into new ones.  His account also highlighted how benefits of practice-based learning are enhanced when staff have access to the support they need – from their managers and peers, and from the university. 
The next panellist was Eirian Jones, physiotherapy practice educator and CSP safety rep at Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital in Oswestry. Eirian shared her recent experience of working with colleagues in musculoskeletal outpatients to offer practice-based learning opportunities for three students at a time – instead of the usual two.  The department saw an increase in productivity, and because students came from two different university programmes, there was an additional benefit: enriched peer learning. Following positive feedback, this new way of working is now being adopted.
CSP Council member Cate Leighton offered an alternative perspective of the benefits of practice-based learning from her role as therapy services lead at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust.  Cate’s presentation showed how organisational support for practice-based learning promotes workforce development. From an organisational perspective, investment in practice-based learning supports staff development, can help build capacity for research and enhance recruitment and retention. 
The next speaker was Rachael Moses, physiotherapy consultant at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.  Rachael shared findings from research on practice-based learning undertaken while she was working at St George’s Hospital, London.  Rachael’s research showed how investment in supporting staff and students has a positive impact on capacity for practice-based learning and the quality of the learning experience. 
An analysis of inpatient activity levels and productivity while physiotherapy students were on placement showed how two-to-one and four-to-one models of supervision had a positive impact on the amount of time spent with patients and the number of patients seen by the physiotherapy service. In sharing her experiences, Rachael encouraged us to think critically and creatively about learning in practice by stating: ‘There’s nothing that can’t be gotten over, under or around!’ 
The final perspective came from Council member Jackie Waterfield, a senior lecturer at Keele University who chairs the CSP education committee. Jackie’s reflections on building capacity for quality practice-based learning showed how the benefits of practice-based learning depend on collaborative working relationships between the university, the service and staff involved.  We will look at what needs to be in place to ensure the quality of practice-based learning in the third and final article in this series. 
I was struck by members’ commitment to maintaining and developing the quality of practice-based learning at ARC.  This feeling was neatly captured in 140 characters in a tweet at ARC by Rebecca Fain: ‘Q’s to the panel at #prblcsp#questiontime#csparc17 need to do something different 2 meet demands 2 ensure that we can support students.’ fl 

Benefits of practice-based learning 

‘ … so I asked the patient to explain it to the student. The student learnt, and that interaction of the patient explaining to someone else why they’re doing what they’re doing, helped me see how that patient had understood exactly what I’d asked them to do.’ Physiotherapy practice educator 
‘We love having students on placement in our integrated team. Sure it’s hard work to organise, and the size of our patch can make the logistics a nightmare, but we get so much back from the process.’ Physiotherapy team lead
‘I think we have a lot to offer placement settings…  we’ve got skills in literature searching and critical initiative and offered to review the literature on a particular topic… I benefit from practising my critical appraisal and writing skills, and staff and the service benefit from having a review of current thinking on a topic.’ Physio student
‘The outcomes included fantastic enhancement of my relationship with my community physio provision in the practice – because we had to work through this [shared supervision of a physiotherapy student] together … and just generally understanding of how physiotherapy can add value to general practice.’ GP involved in practice-based learning scheme
‘It’s important that we work to shift people’s thinking ... so that students are seen as a resource [rather than a burden]. Then investment in practice-based learning becomes a win-win situation for everyone.’ Physiotherapy practice educator

Next steps

Visit our Practice-based learning campaign page for information, guidance and links to events to help you build capacity for quality practice-based learning in your practice. Follow campaign-related activity on Twitter #prblcsp

Gwen Owen

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