Affiliations: UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy & Population Science, Dublin, Ireland
Note:  Corresponding author: Sinead McMahon, UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy & Population Science, Dublin, Ireland. Tel.: +353 1 716 6549; Fax: +353 1 716 6504; E-mail: [email protected]
Abstract: BACKGROUND: With the on-going reform of the Irish health service it is likely that future employment opportunities for physiotherapy graduates will be in primary care. In order to adequately prepare a future workforce, pre-registration physiotherapy programmes must respond to the change in focus of healthcare delivery. To date there has been no study that examines current entry-level physiotherapy practice placement allocations in the Republic of Ireland. AIM: To examine the profile of practice placement settings of pre-registration physiotherapy students in the Republic of Ireland, in order to ascertain what the trend of practice placement settings has been over a three year period and whether this trend reflects the Irish health service change in focus from acute to primary care. METHOD: The four schools of physiotherapy categorised practice placement allocations under the following six headings (1) acute hospitals (2) district hospital/specialised rehabilitation (3) Primary Community & Continuing Care services (4) private hospitals/clinics (5) overseas and (6) other. This data was combined and descriptive statistics were used to analyse it. RESULTS: A total of 3142 placements were available across the four schools in the three years from 2009–2012. Of these, 74% (n = 2310) were in acute hospitals, 17% (n = 542) were in district hospitals/specialised rehabilitation services, 5% (n = 171) were in primary care services, 1% (n = 41) in private hospitals/clinics and 2 % (n = 72) were overseas placements. Primary care placements increased slightly in number over the three years, from 4% (n = 42/1041) in 2009/10 to 7% (n = 75/1067) by 2011/12. CONCLUSION: Although the allocation of practice placements to primary care services increased slightly over the three years, acute hospitals are the predominant settings for practice education in the Republic of Ireland. This does not reflect the Irish health service reform and students may not feel adequately prepared to work in the primary care sector on qualification.
Keywords: Physiotherapy, practice education, clinical settings