Providing Practice-based Learning (PrBL) Experiences during a Pandemic by Katy Smith, Specialist Physiotherapist @katysmith8319

Providing practice-based student learning experiences during the COVID 19 pandemic has been a challenge to say the least! As a team, we were apprehensive about students coming back for the first time since March 2020, but we knew we had to give it a go.

Our team in Medical at RAH were excited to be able to support offering two 12-week residency style placements during the periods of September to December 2020 and February to April 2021 to students from GCU.

However, despite planning there were a number of challenges and barriers to placement one which I will outline below:

  • Both PE and student on sick leave during placement
  • Student felt ill informed re COVID changes and measures
  • Student struggled to integrate into the team
  • Felt PE support, assessment and feedback was inconsistent
  • Student was very focused on a specific number of hours for Respiratory
  • Student felt one of our medical specialty options was not feasible.

This left us understandably disappointed, and as a result, I undertook a review of our student experience with the aim to:

Provide a consistent and supportive placement experience over 12 weeks in February to April 2021.

So before starting placement two:

  • Reviewed all of 2020 GCU assessment guidance
  • Liaised closet with GCU re structure of placement
  • Changed our offered specialties based on feedback and availability of PEs
  • Updated the pre-placemat pack for GCU to include COVID 19 related info and changes
  • Created a placement timetable – utilising work from home days and arranging additional PE cover in advance where possible.
  • Created additional learning resources- case studies/In-services
  • Sought advice from GG&C PEs Forum

After the initial contact from the student:

  • Sent out a learning style questionnaire and an example case study
  • Asked about a reasonable adjustments plan
  • Asked about COVID specific issues – vaccines, LFTs, anxieties or issues
  • Request network details in advance

During placement:

  • Asked the student to complete a SWOT analysis to gauge their perceptions of strengths and weaknesses
  • Followed the placement timetable as closely as possible
  • Continued and open channel of communication throughout to alleviate any arising issues or concerns

Following placement two, the feedback from student two was much more positive:

  • Appropriate level of supervision and guidance
  • Comfortable communicating any issues to PE
  • Good balance of patients and non-clinical time
  • Enjoyed use of learning resources

I was more than satisfied that the aim has been achieved!

Our next steps:

  • Repeat with subsequent placements for 2021
  • PDSA at end of year
  • Ensure all learning tools are accessible to all PEs and utilise throughout each placement.
  • Ensure ongoing communication with GCU

By doing this, we hope to ensure positive, supportive placement experiences to all students from GCU and further afield, and celebrate the continuing education of the future workforce.

Katy Smith is a Specialist Physiotherapist at the Royal Alexandra Hospital.

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