Physio students flex their working muscles


Auburn Hospital’s James Chen with University of Sydney’s Madelyn Nicole overseeing Lucas Kalinak and Rachel Haughton.

An innovative work placement program, devised as a collaboration between Auburn Hospital and the University of Sydney, is improving the work readiness of physiotherapy students, while reducing waiting times for patients.

Traditionally, physiotherapy students on work placement do what their supervisors tell them, Auburn Hospital senior clinical physiotherapy educator James Chen said.

But under this new model, students take on more responsibility when providing what are referred to as student-led services (SLS).

“Historically, having students here on work placement has been extra work for supervisors,” Mr Chen said.

“We wanted to look at ways we could expand our services while making students more work-ready and independent, and getting them to use more initiative.”

The program was set up in 2014, as a study developed by University of Sydney associate lecturer in the Faculty of Health Sciences Madelyn Nicole, in collaboration with Mr Chen, with the purpose of collecting and analysing data.

The program had four aims:

  • To address gaps in the provision of physiotherapy services
  • To meet the physiotherapy needs of two groups of patients – the elderly in a Temporary Stay Unit (TSU) and outpatients with chronic pain
  • To help prepare students to cope with the demands of aged care and chronic disease management
  • To improve the work readiness of students.

Data is still being analysed, but preliminary results indicate intermediate to advanced students contributed to 30 per cent of the total physiotherapy department occasions of service.

“We identified the TSU patients and chronic pain outpatients as areas of high volume and low risk,” Mr Chen said.

“Students ran exercise groups based on evidence-based research.

“Now, there is what we call a ‘living manual’ for each area; students can read and refer to it, refine it, and add extra information.”

Ms Nicole said the model improved service outcomes with no adverse events for patients, while enabling students to develop a range of work-ready skills.

“These included professional interpersonal and communication proficiencies, inter-professional, leadership, time management and organisational skills, quality improvement awareness and associated competencies,” she said.

Mr Chen said the next step was to identify other areas in the hospital where the program might be successfully applied, such as physiotherapy for dialysis patients.

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