Practice Based Learning (PBL) placements play a large part in the development of student physiotherapist towards graduate threshold competence. As part of their studies, MSc (Pre-registration) Physiotherapy students undertake 5 placement blocks, which total a minimum of 1,000 hours of PBL clinical experience.
PBL placement allocations are overseen by the Clinical Placement Coordinators, working in close collaboration with the Work Based Learning Team (WBLT), Placement Leads within the placement centres and Practice Education Facilitators (PEFs) using the equitable allocation system. Placement providers identify capacity in each clinical area up to a minimum quota set by NHS England North/Health Education England. Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) then plan placements based on this capacity to meet student need and ensure a breadth of clinical experience for students. This process is under ongoing review and development to meet the needs of all partners and ensure timely allocation of high quality PBL placement experiences.
Clinical sites and students are normally notified of allocations a minimum of 6 weeks before a placement is due to commence.
The CSP guidelines (CSP, 2016. CSP Education Position Statement. Practice-based learning within pre-registration physiotherapy programmes), state that:
“PBL can occur in any environment or setting that physically supports the delivery of physiotherapy practice. It can be facilitated using varied models of student supervision. These include models that promote students’ peer-to-peer learning and their learning within interprofessional teams.”
The guidelines also state that the CSP does not prescribe where PBL occurs or how it should be facilitated, and support PBL opportunities that align with changing models of care, role reconfiguration, and developments in practice.
We recognise that students can gain valuable experience across a range of settings, and we organise PBL placements to give a balance of experiences. Some elements of learning are considered core and reflected in each PBL placement. A broad experience base is therefore developed by combining the following:-
These experiences are encapsulated by aiming to provide students with experiences in these different settings:
Experiences are monitored by the Clinical Placement Coordinators and via the student’s portfolio. In order to inform the setting of the final PBL experience of the programme, each individual PBL profile is reviewed with the student to identify an appropriate area of practice to complement previously gained experiences to ensure students are ‘fit for practice’ on completion of the programme.
This structure reflects the nature of contemporary physiotherapy practice, recognising the diverse settings in which physiotherapists work, and the importance of working with inter-professional teams and carers.
Each Practice Based Learning (PBL) placement block is integrated into a module and each PBL component has to be passed in order to pass the module overall:
Approximately two thirds of the placement hours are part-time, either one or two days per week (see Table 2) with the rest of the week dedicated to university-based learning. This model seeks to give students opportunity to develop their knowledge, skills, values and behaviours by integrating learning that takes place in the university and clinical settings. This predominantly part-time PBL model might allow students to experience patients progressing in their rehabilitation over a longer period, as well as improve placement capacity by involving clinical partners who are unable to accommodate full-time PBL placements.
The University Regulations stipulate that PBL components of an MSc (Pre-registration) programme of study (i.e. level 7) must be assessed on a Pass/Fail scale. PBL placements do therefore not carry credit towards each student’s award classification. In addition to providing a pass/fail mark, we ask Clinical Educators to provide a percentage mark for each placement, to enable students to develop a portfolio of clinical marks for CPD and employment interview purposes.
This PBL block is assessed using the Practice-Based Learning Assessment document and is linked to the IPP1 Learning Outcomes. The student will also undertake University-based assessments (practical assessment and written assignment) to demonstrate the knowledge, skills, values and behaviours required to meet these Learning Outcomes.
In order for a student to successfully complete the IPP 1 module, the PBL component must allow the student to be involved with a broad remit of physiotherapy practice in a specific area. The Clinical Educator should encourage students to be involved in physiotherapy practice within their level of knowledge, skill and experience. This should include working with other members of the team within the practice environment, talking to patients and carers, observing and undertaking assessments and discussing findings related to the conditions seen. By the end of this PBL block, the student should be given opportunity to undertake and evaluate physiotherapy interventions. The student should be encouraged to use reflection to enhance their learning experiences and relate this to areas for future development.
Blocks Two – Five
These PBL blocks are assessed using the Common Assessment Tool and is linked to their respective module Learning Outcomes. In addition, the student will undertake the following PBL-relevant assessment tasks for each module:
For a student to successfully complete the PBL components of IPP2, IPP3, IPP4 and IPP6, each PBL placement should provide opportunities for the student to be involved with a broad remit of physiotherapy practice relevant to the placement setting. Each PBL block builds on previous PBL experiences, with the expectation that students will increasingly work towards graduate threshold clinical competence.