Exploring how changes to education during the covid-19 pandemic affected newly qualified physiotherapists in preparation and work as a Band 5 physiotherapist (Qualitative Phase)
Mixed Methods Research Part 1: Focus Groups
Keywords:COVID-19, physiotherapy student, transition, preparedness, newly qualified
Whilst there is lots of research investigating how COVID-19 has affected physiotherapy students whilst studying, there is currently no research into the impact that this may have had as this group transitioned to their newly qualified role. Previous studies explore changes to education including online learning, practical and placement disruptions.
This study aimed to explore if the changes in education faced by physiotherapy students during the pandemic affected their preparedness as they became newly qualified Band 5s.
A concurrent triangulation mixed methods design has been chosen to address this research question. An online questionnaire formed the quantitative data and a focus group formed the qualitative data. This article focuses only on qualitative data analysis. The focus groups were audio recorded and a direct transcript was produced online, second checked by the researcher to ensure it was verbatim. Thematic analysis was used to identify, analyse and report themes within the data.
Four themes were identified:
Challenges of organisational dynamics and communication: This encompassed emotions felt by the participants during their time at university throughout the pandemic.
The transition to a newly qualified role: Participants did not believe this to have been affected by the pandemic. This was attributed to a good variety of clinical experiences as opposed to their peers who had non-clinical experiences.
Acceptance of their novice status as a newly qualified physiotherapist: Participants acknowledged they needed help initially which they put down to lack of experience rather than studying through COVID-19.
Concern for future placements: Participants fear for the next cohort of Band 5 physiotherapists as they have had less clinical experience due to placement shortages due to COVID-19. They believe this is having a detrimental effect on their clinical and communication skills.
Newly-qualified Band 5 physiotherapists who studied during the COVID-19 pandemic perceived their preparedness for the role was attributed to the number of clinical placements obtained as students. Further research should concentrate on specific skills, (e.g., bedside manner), that are difficult for students to acquire during non-clinical placements to allow for adequate support and mentoring to ensure competence upon graduation and beyond.
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