Physiotherapists’ perception of a community-based primary healthcare clinical education approach to undergraduate learning

  • S Blose
  • N.C.T. Chemane
  • V Chetty
  • P Govender
  • S Maddocks


Background. South African health systems are challenged by numerous stressors, such as a lack of resources, staff shortages and overburdened public sector demands. This necessitates appropriately equipped and trained healthcare professionals to meet the demands of this system. Community-based primary healthcare (PHC) clinical education is an approach towards preparing health science students to meet these demands. Clinical education is the cornerstone of undergraduate training. Physiotherapists are among the healthcare professionals who require undergraduate training that drives competence for independent practice.

Objective. To explore the perceptions and experiences of physiotherapists as clinical supervisors within a physiotherapy undergraduate programme that adopted a community-based PHC approach to clinical training.

Methods. An explorative qualitative approach was used, with semi-structured interviews with 10 purposively selected physiotherapists supervising students on the newly introduced platform. Data were transcribed and analysed using content analysis.

Results. Seven themes emerged from the data, which relate to curriculum redress, organisational factors, stakeholder dynamics, barriers and enablers to decentralised clinical training, perceived preparedness for practice and recommendations.

Conclusions. As the need for an increasing number of health professionals is realised, more innovative methods for clinical education of undergraduate health science students are required. Community-based PHC training for physiotherapy students is one such approach and was generally perceived as a valuable framework to incorporate competencies required for practice as future independent practitioners. Furthermore, improved communication between students, clinicians and academic staff was seen as a recommendation to influence clinical education.


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