WCPT Africa Region Conference System, 9th WCPT Africa Region Congress

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Establishing an early childhood clinical service by engaging final year physiotherapy students
Carina Eksteen

Last modified: 2012-02-28



In many urban, semi-urban and rural areas in South Africa, rehabilitation / clinical services are lacking due to a shortage of clinical staff. If it so happens that a lack of clinical services impact on clinical training of physiotherapy students, the situation can be turned around by seeing it as an opportunity to create a unique learning environment for students to engage in multi-faceted professional activities that would facilitate their professional identity, ability to practice/implement evidence based practice principles, communicative, collaborative and clinical skills in the context of a multi-professional team approach.

The purpose of this paper is to explain how an early childhood intervention service was initiated and established by engaging final year physiotherapy students on their community block in unique clinical learning environment

The need for an early childhood clinic was identified by the medical staff of a district hospital where final year physiotherapy students had their clinical block on community physiotherapy.

Methodology and results.

Participatory action research was used to plan, implement and evaluate the step by step initiation and implementation of the service. The general approach to the establishment of the out-patient clinic and year plan of relevant activities / steps was planned by the clinical supervisor and the principle physiotherapist overseeing the physiotherapy service in the particular province where the need was identified. The students on each clinical block was incorporated in the planning of the general service plan as well as the type and sequence of the specific activities that they needed to perform during their four week clinical block to implement and run the out-patient clinic.  Each group of students had to conduct a different phase in the establishment of the out-patient clinic.  Each group of 3-4 students had to plan their activities based on the feedback from the previous group’s monthly report, from the staff they worked with, the caregivers who brought the children to the clinic, and the research evidence they could find through a literature search on a specific aspect of the clinical service they were dealing with. At the end of each clinical block students had to evaluate their contribution to the service, make recommendations to the multi-disciplinary team members and the next group of students by writing a hand-over report.

The conclusion and implication for the profession is that a unique utterly meaningful novel learning experience for the students, the service was established, and caregivers of the children participated in the client-centred out-patient clinic. Clinical education of students can play a major role in the establishment and running of a client-centred clinical service while engaging in very meaningful professional learning activities


Keywords: clinical education, service delivery, physiotherapy

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