Physiotherapy clinical education in Australia: An exploration of clinical educator characteristics, confidence and training requirements

Clint Newstead, Catherine L. Johnston, Gillian Nisbet, Lindy McAllister

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Objectives: The aim of this study was to describe physiotherapists' involvement, confidence and training needs in the provision of student clinical education (CE) in Australia. Methods: A valid and reliable cross-sectional online survey instrument was used to collect data from physiotherapists employed in public and private healthcare facilities in Australia. Survey questions included participant personal and professional characteristics, participation in CE-related continuing professional development (CPD) and confidence in components of CE. Results: In all, 170 (34%) physiotherapists (mean age 37 years mean years clinical experience 13 years) completed the survey. Most participants (68%) were currently involved in CE, over half (56%) had completed CE-related CPD and many (56%) reported a need for more CPD. Participants with no previous CE experience were less confident (P ≤ 0.05) in all components of CE. Participants with less clinical experience were less confident in managing challenging students (P = 0.003), multiple students (P = <0.001) and competing workplace and education duties (P = <0.001). Conclusions: Physiotherapists with varying professional characteristics were involved in CE. Although many participants had attended CE-related CPD, many reported that more training was required. Future training for clinical educators should be tailored to participants' level of experience and focus on the components of CE in which they feel least confident. What is known about the topic?: The ability of physiotherapists to confidently assume a clinical educator role may affect their willingness to be clinical educators in the future and the students' perceptions of clinical placement quality. CPD relating to CE may help prepare physiotherapists for the clinical educator role. What does this paper add?: There is a lack of information regarding physiotherapists' involvement in CE, completion of CE-related CPD or perceived levels of confidence in various aspects of the clinical educator role, such as placement organisation, teaching, assessment and the provision of feedback. This study describes the involvement of physiotherapists in CE in Australia, including their demographic and professional characteristics, participation in CE-related CPD and confidence in various components of CE. What are the implications for practitioners?: Several recommendations regarding future CE-related CPD have resulted from this study, including tailoring CPD to the needs of physiotherapists based on their level of clinical or CE experience, focusing CPD on the aspects of CE in which physiotherapists feel least confident and raising the awareness of and improving accessibility to CPD opportunities in this area.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)696-705
Number of pages10
JournalAustralian Health Review
Issue number6
Early online date18 Sep 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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