BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY: Recruitment is key for any organisation. Admission onto health education programmes must balance the requirements of a degree with preparation for a specific professional role. Additionally, gate keeping demands recruitment of those with potential to uphold the values and standards of the NHS constitution, the chosen profession, who can work with, and for, vulnerable people. Evidence indicates a relationship between prior academic attainment and future academic performance. However, the importance of personal characteristics for those entering healthcare education is unclear. RESEARCH QUESTION: Do students learning journey experiences illustrate personal characteristics influencing progression through their physiotherapy degree? STUDY AIM: To investigate a physiotherapy year group's journey through their degree programme, from pre-admission to graduation and identify personal characteristics influencing progression, professional registration and employability. METHODOLOGY: A qualitative approach, built on a thematic model of personal, social and professional identity, utilised an applied social policy research data handling and analysis Framework approach, underpinned by a pragmatic worldview. METHOD: Following ethical clearance, a physiotherapy cohort from a North East of England university consented to admissions and progression data being analysed. A purposive sample of nine students consented to attend semi-structured interviews exploring their learning journey. Interviews explored pre-admission through year 1, year 2 to year 3 and year 3 plus overview of their degree. Progression was analysed by consideration of secondary data, including grade point average (GPA), placement formative feedback & degree classification. RESULTS: Analysis of the interviews and secondary data suggested all learning journeys present challenges. Six personal characteristics emerged as important facilitators, conscientiousness, resilience, reflection, caring, interpersonal relationships and attitude to learning. The strength of affinity for the intended physiotherapy identity emerged as a key motivating factor along the learning journey. CONCLUSION: Learning journeys are challenging. Frustrations and disappointments transpire as a natural consequence of academic and professional development. They may also coincide with major life-events creating additional stressors. Personal characteristics appear vital protectors against such stressors and additionally facilitate the learning journey. No single key characteristic emerged; rather several appear to interact to facilitate the learning journey. When one characteristic is overwhelmed, successful individuals draw on others as resources. Characteristics themselves are not simple expressions of behaviour but nuanced, with certain facets more or less important depending on context. It is too simplistic to view struggling, or failing students as lacking certain characteristics, as unique contextual issues may inhibit utility of a normally present characteristic. Managing challenges appears related to the strength of affinity for the physiotherapy identity. If strong, individuals appear highly motivated to persevere even in the face of significant stressors. When weak or the proto-physiotherapy identity fails to match the reality encountered through the degree, the ability to manage is diminished, resulting in a challenged and likely unsuccessful outcome. ACADEMIC CONTRIBUTION: The results have led to better understandings of the role of personal characteristics in the development of students through their professional education. It is envisaged this will not only contribute to more focused admissions strategy and processes locally, but will contribute knowledge to the national debate on values based recruitment (VBR) in the NHS.
|Qualification||Doctor of Philosophy|
|Publication status||Accepted/In press - 1 Jun 2017|