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G. Morris1,2, P. Nicholson3, R. Jones4
1Cardiff University, School of Healthcare Sciences, Cardiff, United Kingdom, 2Hywel Dda University Health Board, Physiotherapy Department, Carmarthen, United Kingdom, 3North Devon Healthcare NHS Trust, Physiotherapy Department, Barnstaple, United Kingdom, 4East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, Physiotherapy Department, Canterbury, United Kingdom

Background: Student experience during training can influence levels of interest in a speciality and affect career choices after graduation. Despite neurological physiotherapy being considered a significant area of practice within the profession there is a paucity of evidence exploring students’ experiences of the speciality.  
Exploration of student experiences of cardio-respiratory physiotherapy has highlighted that those who had negative or unsatisfactory experiences felt a lack of preparedness for practice and perceived themselves as less competent as a result. This has been linked to recruitment and retention issues and lack of interest in cardio-respiratory physiotherapy.
Among medical students a phenomenon of ‘neurophobia’ has been found, which is a perceived fear of the neurology speciality due to an inability to apply knowledge of basic neurology to clinical situations. This has resulted in beliefs that neurology is a complex and difficult area and only for the ‘very intelligent’, leading to avoidance of the speciality.

Purpose: The aim of this study was to explore final year physiotherapy students’ experiences of neurological physiotherapy during training and how it may impact their future practice.

Methods: A qualitative design using individual semi-structure interviews was used. A purposive sample of seven final year BSc physiotherapy students were recruited from Cardiff University, School of Healthcare Sciences. Data was analysed using thematic analysis.

Results: Three overarching themes arose around ‘university-based learning’, ‘placement learning’ and ‘future practice’. Key sub-themes influencing experience were ‘case-based education’, ‘exposure’ to the speciality, and the ‘clinical educator’. Regarding future practice participants noted the speciality as ‘challenging’ and ‘interesting’ which were drivers to potential specialisation in future.  

Conclusion(s): Several modifiable factors influenced students’ experiences of neurological physiotherapy in both the higher education and placement settings. Consideration of these factors by universities and clinically based education providers could further enhance experience potentially increasing interest and specialisation in neurological physiotherapy.

Implications: Use of case-based learning in the classroom and good student/educator relationships during placement can enhance student experience of neurological physiotherapy and may influence future specialisation.

Funding, acknowledgements: unfunded

Keywords: Student, Experience, Neurology

Topic: Education: clinical

Did this work require ethics approval? Yes
Institution: Cardiff University
Committee: School of Healthcare Sciences Research Governance and Ethics Committee
Ethics number: UGPT2019/GMQ1

All authors, affiliations and abstracts have been published as submitted.

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