Do physiotherapy students perceive that they are adequately prepared to enter clinical practice? An empirical study

Heather Talberg, Des Scott


Objective. To determine the perceived level of preparedness for clinical practice of third-year physiotherapy students.

Design. A prospective, descriptive study, using questionnaires to determine subjective perceptions and clinical test marks for objective measures of performance, was undertaken. Two different cohorts were recruited of third-year students entering clinical practice for the first time.

Method. A 17-item questionnaire relating to areas of competence was developed. Results of questionnaire scores and test scores from the 2 cohorts were amalgamated and analysed. Participants were grouped according to their clinical placement. The internal consistency of the questionnaire was tested using Cronbach's alpha. As this was high at 0.847, the individual scores were added together and the mean score calculated. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to establish if there was a significant difference in scores across different areas of competency and on test marks, across the different clinical settings.

Main outcomes measure. Means and 95% confidence intervals of the mean scores of each component of competence indicated a significant difference between the scores (p<0.001). One-way ANOVA and post hoc analysis revealed that the students perceived themselves as better prepared in affect (generic skills) than for intervention and overall preparedness ((F(4, 264)=4.8601, p<0.001). There were no significant differences between the competency mean scores (F(4,53)=0.804, p=0.528), or in the mean test scores, across the placements (F(4, 77)=0.438, p=0.781).

Results. Most of the students perceived their level of preparedness as relatively high across all areas of competence, regardless of placement. Students also achieved satisfactory (>60%) test scores, indicating realistic estimations of their ability.

Conclusion. The sense of readiness confirms the alignment of the classroom curriculum and clinical expectations, which has largely come about through the positioning of permanent clinical educators as essential links between the classroom and the clinical setting.

Authors' affiliations

Heather Talberg, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Division of Physiotherapy, University of Cape Town, South Africa

Des Scott, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Division of Physiotherapy, University of Cape Town, South Africa

Full Text



Clinical education; Independent clinical practice; Clinical competencies; Curriculum; Clinical educators

Cite this article

African Journal of Health Professions Education 2014;6(1):17-22. DOI:10.7196/AJHPE.219

Article History

Date submitted: 2012-12-11
Date published: 2014-03-04

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