‘Walls and Windows’ – student voices in elective placement organisation

John Stephens, Jill Gilthorpe

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Relevance: The CSP Physiotherapy Framework (CSP, 2011) highlights the values, knowledge, skills, and behaviours associated with proficient physiotherapy practice. Students develop learning in the practice setting by bringing together theoretical knowledge and real world client situations within contemporary physiotherapy practice. The pre-registration programmes at Northumbria University integrate learning derived from University and practice-based settings and, in partnership with practice-based stakeholders, has embedded approximately one third of study within the practice environment, amounting to a minimum of 1000 hours of practice-based-learning as required by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP, 2015). Due to the diversity and complexity of healthcare and the profession, even within this period of time it is not possible for students to experience all possible clinical environments during pre-registration education. This, along with the global nature of the profession (WCPT, 2015) and a desire to offer choice in clinical experience for students has led to the continuing development of an elective placement, organised and funded by students, as a successful part of the programmes for a period of over 30 years. Purpose: An elective placement offers a number of academic, personal, social benefits and a wealth of opportunities for students. They can be life affirming, learning experiences but can also become organisational nightmares. Empowering students to set their own requirement for the placement within a prescribed framework engages students in the process and allows them to determine their own area of need. Students are challenged by the possible opportunities offered and the decisions they need to take, as they consider the location of the placement. In recent years, particularly since the global financial crisis in 2008 and resultant austerity measures, ever increasing concerns for personal safety related to areas of unrest or conflict and associated insurance requirements have added to the complexity in arranging elective placements both internationally and within the UK. Approach: Attempting to address such complex issues, we have sought to explore students' experiences and perceptions of the value of the elective placement to their professional development and identity, and to consider difficulties and barriers encountered in the planning and undertaking of their placement. Evaluation: A nominal group technique was used to explore issues around the elective placement, from which students developed their 'Top Tips' for Elective success; whilst free drawing and free writing was used to help the students' individual reflection. Outcomes: Resultant networks and strategies grouped around major themes of 'Walls' and Windows' have been disseminated to assist future students in planning for their elective experience. ´Walls´ are viewed as obstructions to the elective experience, whilst ´Windows´ provide a view of available opportunities. Conclusions: A participatory, situational approach has been implemented to address an ever changing challenge and ensure that the potential of the elective placement is fully realised as an opportunity contributing to students continuing professional development. Impact and Implications: The elective placement is a consistent ´selling point´ for our programmes. In a continually changing professional education environment the project has proven impact for students both in terms of CPD and general life experience that provides choice within a supportive framework.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015
EventPhysiotherapy UK 2015 - Liverpool
Duration: 1 Oct 2015 → …


ConferencePhysiotherapy UK 2015
Period1/10/15 → …


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