Physiotherapy students’ pre-clinical stress prior to an outpatient placement – triggers and remedies

Ms Rebecca Lee1, Ms Dragana Ceprnja1, Dr Mahbub  Sarkar2

1Physiotherapy Department , Westmead Hospital, Sydney, Australia, 2Monash Centre for Scholarship in Health Education, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing & Health Sciences, Monash University , Melbourne, Australia

Background: Physiotherapy students frequently report stress prior to an outpatient clinical placement. As stress can have a negative impact on student’s ability to learn and maximise the value of their clinical experience, exploring the factors related to their pre-clinical stress in the outpatient setting would seems important.

Aim: This paper explored physiotherapy students’ perceptions of the factors related to pre-clinical stress prior to a musculoskeletal outpatient placement, and the possible mitigation strategies that could be applied.

Methods: Focus groups with 3rd and final year physiotherapy students undertaking musculoskeletal outpatient clinical placement were used to collect qualitative data.   A visual analogue scale (VAS) was used to measure students’ perceived stress prior to the outpatient placement.

Results: There was generally an increase in perceived pre-clinical stress among students. Students viewed outpatients as a complex area that challenges their preparedness for practice as a physiotherapist. Negotiating a new workplace and aligned environmental stresses were also viewed as contributing factors to induce uncertainty and further pre-clinical stress. Adequate information about, and preparation for, the outpatient settings seem valuable to mitigate the pre-clinical stress.

Discussion: Pre-clinical stress related to a musculoskeletal outpatient placement for physiotherapy students appears to be multi-faceted in its origin.

Conclusions: Whilst much of the pre-clinical stress felt by students prior to an outpatient clinical placement relates to the need to assume a more responsible and independent role as a clinician, other precipitating factors would be worthwhile addressing for optimal outcomes for students.


Biography:

Rebecca Lee is an experienced physiotherapist and educator. Her work has centered around the education of physiotherapy students in both the academic and clinical settings. A strong interest in improving the clinical education experience of both students and educators has seen her recently complete a Master of Health Professional Education through Monash University.

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