Fitting in with the team: Facilitative mentors in physiotherapy student placements’

Christopher Wibberley, Claire Hamshire


Clinical placements are central to physiotherapy students’ education, providing an environment in which students can apply learning they have been introduced to in academic settings. However placement learning has been identified as fraught with problems and resultant stress, and there is limited evidence available on what exactly makes a good placement for physiotherapy students. This paper reports on selected findings from a study exploring narratives of physiotherapy students over three years, relating to their overall experiences of being a student. A narrative prompt provided an opportunity for the students to speak about ‘episodes’ of their learning experiences. A number of these ‘episodes’ related to the students’ experiences of clinical placements; thus it was decided to extract these from the narratives and undertake a separate qualitative analysis of these placement experiences. The majority of the students reported positive experiences of placements overall; however, it was clear that some placement teams and mentors did not support students appropriately. A welcoming team and a mentor who facilitated learning from an individual student perspective were considered to be key to a good placement experience, whilst an unwelcoming team and a mentor who objectified the student resulted in bad placement experiences.


student experience, physiotherapy, placement, mentorship

Full Text:



Andrew, A., McGuiness, C., Reid, G. & Corcoran, T. (2009). Greater than the sum of its parts; Transition into the first year of undergraduate nursing. Nurse Education in Practice, 91, 13-21.

Barnett, R. (2007). A will to learn: being a student in an age of uncertainty. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Brown, T., Williams, B., McKenna, L., Palermo, C., McCall, L., Roller, L. et al. (2011). Practice education learning environments: the mismatch between perceived and preferred expectations of undergraduate health science students. Nurse Education Today, 31, 22–28.

Chan, D.S.K. (2002). Associations between student learning outcomes from their clinical placement and their perceptions of the social climate of the clinical learning environment. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 39, 517–524.

Chesser-Smyth, P. (2005). The lived experiences of general student nurses on their first clinical placement: A phenomenological study. Nurse Education in Practice, 5, 320–327.

Chow, K. & Healey, M. (2008). Place attachment and place identity: First-year undergraduates making the transition from home to university. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 28, 362–372.

Christie, H., Munro, M., Fisher, T. (2004). Leaving university early: exploring the differences between continuing and non-continuing students. Studies in Higher Education, 29, 617-636.

Delaney, C. & Bragge, P. (2009). A study of physiotherapy students’ and clinical educators’ perceptions of learning and teaching. Medical Teacher, 31, 402–411.

Edward, N.S. (2003). First impressions last; an innovative approach to induction. Active Learning in Higher Education, 4, 226-242.

Eick, S.A., Williamson, G.R. & Heath, V. (2012). A systematic review of placement-related attrition in nurse education. International Journal Nursing Studies, 49, 1299-309.

Gibbons, C. (2010). Stress, coping and burn-out in nursing students. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 47, 1299–1309.

Hamshire, C. & Wibberley, C. (2014). The listening project: Physiotherapy students narratives of their higher education experiences. In Bryson C, editor. Understanding and Developing Student Engagement. London: Routledge, 47–63.

Hamshire, C., Willgoss, T. & Wibberley, C. (2012). “The placement was probably the tipping point” – The narratives of recently discontinued students. Nurse Education in Practice, 12, 182–186.

Hamshire, C., Willgoss, T. & Wibberley C. (2013). What are reasonable expectations? Healthcare student perceptions of their programmes in the North West of England. Nurse Education Today, 33, 173–179.

Hardcastle, T. (2014). First clinical placement: the student ODP experience. Journal of Operating Department Practitioners, 2, 42–47.

Kane, S., Chalcraft, D. & Volpe, G. (2014). Notions of belonging: First year. International Journal of Management Education, 12, 193–201.

Levett-Jones, T. & Lathlean J. (2008). Belongingness: A prerequisite for nursing students’ clinical learning. Nurse Education in Practice, 8, 103–111.

Levett-Jones, T., Lathlean, J., Higgins, I. & McMillan, M. (2009). Staff - student relationships and their impact on nursing students’ belongingness and learning. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 65, 316–324.

Levett-Jones, T., Lathlean, J., Maguire, J. & McMillan, M. (2007). Belongingness: A critique of the concept and implications for nursing education. Nurse Education Today, 27, 210–218.

Lord, B., McCall, L. & Wray, N. (2012). Factors affecting the education of pre-employment paramedic students during the clinical practicum. Australasian Journal of Paramedicine, 7, 1-9.

McKenna, L., Gilmour, G., Biro, M., McIntyre, M., Bailey, C., Jones, J., Miles, M., Hall, H. & McLelland, G. (2013). Undergraduate midwifery students’ sense of belongingness in clinical practice. Nurse Education Today, 33, 880-883.

Myall, M., Levett-Jones, T. & Lathlean J. (2008). Mentorship in contemporary practice: the experiences of nursing students and practice mentors. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 17, 1834–1842.

Newton, J.M., Billett, S. & Ockerby, C.M. (2009). Journeying through clinical placements - an examination of six student cases. Nurse Education Today, 29, 630–634.

Ritchie, J. & Spencer, L. (1994). Qualitative data analysis for applied policy research. In: Bryman, A. (Ed.), Analyzing qualitative data. London: Routledge; 173-194.

Rodger, S., Fitzgerald, S., Davila, W., Millar, F. & Allison, H. (2011). What makes a quality occupational therapy practice placement? Students’ and practice educators’ perspectives. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 58,195–202.

Scanlon, L., Rowling, L. & Weber, Z. (2007). “You don’t have like an identity … you are just lost in the crowd”: Forming a student identity in the first-year transition to university. Journal of Youth Studies, 10, 223-241.

Skøien, A., Vågstøl, U. & Raaheim A. (2009). Learning physiotherapy in clinical practice: Student interaction in a professional context. Physiotherapy Theory and Practice, 25, 268–278.

Spencer, L., Ritchie, J., Ormson, R., O'Connor, W. & Barnard, M. (2013) Analysis: principles and processes. In: Ritchie, J., Lewis, J., Mcnaughton-Nicholls, C &, Ormston R. (Eds.), Qualitative research practice, a guide for social science students & researchers. 2nd ed. London: Sage; 269–93.

Vågstøl, U. & Skøien, A. (2011). “A learning climate for discovery and awareness”: Physiotherapy students' perspective on learning and supervision in practice. Advances in Physiotherapy, 13, 71–78.

Whiteside, D., Stubbs, B. & Soundy, A. (2014). Physiotherapy students’ experiences of bullying on clinical internships: a qualitative study. Physiotherapy, 100, 41–46.

Williamson, G.R., Health, V. & Proctor-Childs, T. (2013). Vocation, friendship and resilience: A study exploring nursing student and staff views on retention and attrition. The Open Nursing Journal, 7, 149-156.



Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Teaching & Learning Inquiry is the official journal of the
International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ISSOTL)