Preparing students for the transition to new graduate therapist: how are we doing?

Ms Susan Stoikov1, Dr Lyndal Maxwell2, Dr Jane  Butler2, Ms Kassie Shardlow1, Mr Mark  Gooding3, Professor Suzanne Kuys2

1Metro South Health, Woolloongabba, Australia, 2Australian Catholic University, Brisbane, Australia, 3Townsville Hospital and Health Service, Townsville, Australia


The transition from student to new graduate poses many challenges with concerns raised among health disciplines about new graduate preparedness for practice. Some challenges include managing a busy workload, time management and conflict resolution. Recent physiotherapy research identified that student caseload must double and the time to treat a patient needs to reduce by approximately 30% to match a new graduate physiotherapist workload.

Aim/objectives: To determine the perceptions of new graduate and experienced physiotherapists on the transition from student to new graduate.

Methods: Focus groups were conducted with new graduate and experienced physiotherapists to identify perspectives on new graduate preparedness for practice and student to new graduate transition Semi-structured interviews were conducted across five Queensland public health hospitals located in regional and metropolitan areas. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and thematically analysed to identify key themes.

Results: Four themes were identified surrounding the student transition to new graduate including preparedness for practice, protected practice, independent and affirmation of practice and performance expectations. New graduate and experienced physiotherapists identified the increased caseload volume and complexity from student to new graduate was difficult and at times left new graduates feeling unprepared for their new roles. Participants reported that students were typically protected from realistic workloads and new graduates highlighted that coping with change in independence and managing expectations of themselves was challenging. Furthermore, strategies were identified that may assist in the transition from student to new graduate and included organisational, clinical and personal strategies.

Discussion: New graduates and experienced physiotherapists acknowledged there were a number of challenges associated with the transition from student to new graduate. To enhance student transition to new graduate, a multifactorial approach is required that includes all key stakeholders and strategically targets key challenges associated with the student transition to new graduate.


Suzy is the Physiotherapy Clinical Education Coordinator at the Princess Alexandra Hospital where she has been the Project Officer for a number of research projects relating to clinical education in physiotherapy. Suzy is currently undertaking a PhD at the Australian Catholic University investigating the student contribution to health services and the transition from student to new graduate.

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