Learning experiences of physiotherapy students during primary healthcare clinical placements

  • DV Ernstzen
  • SB Statham
  • SD Hanekom


Background. Primary healthcare (PHC) is necessary to address the health needs of communities. It creates the opportunity for the attainment of curricular outcomes through community-based education. Appropriate learning opportunities are needed to enable students to develop the necessary skills to attain these outcomes.
Objectives. To describe the learning opportunities occurring during physiotherapy PHC placements and to explore the role the learning environment and learning opportunities played in attaining the outcomes for the placements.
Methods. A descriptive case study was conducted using different strategies for data collection and analysis. Participants completed a record sheet to indicate time spent on different activities. Observational site evaluations, individual interviews with site representatives and focus-group discussions with students were conducted to explore their perceptions about PHC clinical placements.
Results. The results indicated that the participants valued PHC placements as powerful learning environments. However, students did not have the opportunity to engage satisfactorily in activities that foster the principles of PHC. Participants acknowledged that several resource constraints existed in this context; however, they identified several potential valuable learning opportunities. Students suggested curriculum-specific strategies needed to prepare them for PHC, and recognised the need for healthcare services in the communities they served.
Conclusion. While the PHC learning environment was rich and authentic, learning opportunities need to be optimised to enable students to fully reach the outcomes for the placements. Learning opportunities need to be crafted to foster collaborative learning, interdisciplinary learning, community engagement and empowerment.


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