The experience of physiotherapy and occupational therapy students of pandemic teaching and its perceived impact on placement/practice

Alex Benham, Jackie Malone, Joanne Duncan

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting Abstractpeer-review


Purpose: The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in substantial changes to healthcare education. Healthcare students often undertake a large amount of their education programmes in-person which helps to develop important communication and hands-on skills. These skills are vital within practice settings, and with the pandemic affecting more than one whole academic year, a substantial amount of time to refine these skills is likely to have been lost. It is unclear what impact this will have on clinical practice for students.

The aim of this study was to capture the learning experiences of Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy students throughout the pandemic and explore their perceptions of whether this may affect their readiness to attend practice placement or work clinically after graduation.

Methods: The study used a mixed-methods questionnaire design consisting of 15 questions and distributed through University networks and via social media platforms. The questions were based around 3 main areas: delivery of teaching throughout the year, perceived impact on clinical skills such as communication/hands-on skills and experience/views of placement. Responses were collected through a mixture of Likert-type responses of agreement, ordinal rating scales and qualitative summaries using keyword descriptors to summarise and describe their experiences.

Results: There were 115 responses that had completed more than 50% of the questionnaire, 49.6% of these were Physio students with 43.5% being in final year and 56.5% being in their first or second year. 78.4% of students reported having substantially less teaching time, 66.2% having less contact with teaching staff and 83.8% reported less contact with other students.

In terms of the perceived impact on skills, 80.6% of students agreed or strongly agreed that they felt less ready for placement. Additionally, 73.8% of students agreed or strongly agreed that they were more anxious about attending clinical practice/placement but 61.8% agreed or strongly agreed that the pandemic situation had made them more resilient, and there was a mixed view of whether being a student at this time will impact of competence as a clinician.

Conclusion(s): The impact of the pandemic on students has been great and there were mixed responses from the students with regards to how they feel this will affect them in the long term as a clinician. Some students appear have adapted well to the learning environment whereas others have been more greatly impacted. Further work is needed to learn from education providers to support students.

Impact: The pandemic has had a profound impact on the education of health professionals and the long-term impact of this is unknown. This study found that the learning environment this year has affected people in very different ways, some positively and some negatively. Further work needs to be carried out to explore the support needs of students going forward to ease the transition once teaching practices become less restricted.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e233-e234
Number of pages2
Issue numbersuppl. 1
Publication statusPublished - 16 Feb 2022
EventVirtual Physiotherapy UK 2021 Conference - Virtual, Toronto, Canada
Duration: 5 Nov 20216 Nov 2021


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