Dear practice education teams…

We say thank you for helping to grow the next generation of physiotherapists and for playing this tough but hugely pivotal role

Practice education
Practice Education team

Thank you for doing this when under more pressure than ever, with bigger and more complex workloads alongside rapidly diminishing resources.

Thank you for investing your time and energy in student education; for thinking differently to create workable solutions when faced with many challenges including limited space, remote consultations and altered service provision. Thank you for doing all of this despite the huge amount going on outside of work..

Training in healthcare is hard. It is hard for educators and it is hard for students. 

Let’s think back to when we were students ourselves. How did you feel the night before starting a new placement?

Nervous? Excited? Energised? The list could go on. The likelihood is that you were experiencing a real mix of emotions. Topics learnt in the classroom were about to be practised for real. You would soon be working in a healthcare setting under the supervision of a qualified physiotherapist – the career you were passionately pursuing and the end goal of your studies. Many questions would have been racing around your head – what would the team be like?

Would I fit in? What if I don’t know the answers? What if they don’t like me? Do I see myself in this profession?

Now think about your best placement experience. What made it so good? It is unlikely that it was the high tech environment, the status of the organisation or the meticulous planning of every minute of every day. It is more likely to have been the actions of your practice educator.

Can you picture them? You probably can. You can also probably remember their passion for practice that motivated you, empowered you, and made you feel like you had made the right career choice. They helped you to see yourself as part of our amazing profession. In essence, they provided a sense of belonging. 

What matters?

Practice education teams matter

Your words and actions are crucial to student development, having the ability to shape, build and grow our future workforce and create a sense of belonging. 

We also should take some time to consider the flip side. We are aware that many physiotherapists, perhaps yourself included, recall poor placement experiences. Placements where they did not belong, did not feel part of a team and questioned if this was the right future for them. For some students this really can be the difference between staying in the profession or not.  

What can we do?

So how do we create a sense of belonging? Literature frequently indicates that this starts with practice educators relating to a student as an individual and committing to their personal learning needs. By calling them by their name rather than ‘the student’, by taking time to be interested in their journey, by listening and by responding to their needs rather than delivering a one-size-fits-all approach.

We create this by asking students how we can support them on placement. By finding out what matters to them, what they are worried about, what factors may affect their learning and what their placement experiences have been to date. We build a space with psychological safety to allow students to discuss their experiences, ideas and concerns without fear of judgement. Students describe excellent practice educators as those who encouraged their learning, provided opportunities, promoted problem solving and gave regular feedback.  

You may be reading this thinking it sounds obvious. During times of complexity, we often look for complex answers but let us instead keep things simple. Let’s remind ourselves of what really matters to students and consider how the golden thread of belonging is weaved throughout the whole placement. Where do we do this well? Where is there space for development?

Let’s continue to shape our next generation of physiotherapists. Let’s show them the importance of quality practice education teams and inspire them to be like you once qualified; they too playing their own pivotal role in student education and paying it forwards. 

Professional Advice Service

The CSP’s Professional Advice Service gives advice and support to members on complex and specialist enquiries about physiotherapy practice, including professional practice issues, standards, values and behaviours, international working, service design and commissioning, and policy in practice. 

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