BMC Med Educ 2019 Apr 16;19(1):109. Epub 2019 Apr 16.
Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine, Bond Institute of Health and Sport, Bond University, Robina, QLD, Gold Coast, 4226, Australia.
Background: No documented standard or core competencies exist for paediatric curriculum in entry-level physiotherapy programs in Australia. Consequently, extensive variability is thought to exist amongst Australian entry-level physiotherapy programs for preparing physiotherapists to work safely and effectively with children. The purpose of this study was to explore the landscape of paediatric curriculum in Australian entry-level physiotherapy programs and identify the paediatric content being covered, its perceived importance according to university academics who teach paediatrics, the mode of delivery and assessment, and the strengths, weaknesses, barriers and facilitators to implementing paediatric curriculum.
Methods: A web-based desktop audit and an online cross-sectional survey using closed and open-ended questions was administered to all Australian universities offering entry-level physiotherapy programs in November 2017. Content coverage and perceived level of importance for paediatric content areas were determined using Likert scale responses. Open-ended responses were thematically analysed to identify key themes for strengths, weaknesses and facilitators to implementation of paediatric curriculum.
Results: All (n = 20, 100%) entry-level programs used the terms lifespan, child and/or paediatrics somewhere in at least one subject descriptor. Forty-five percent (n = 9) of universities did not use the terms lifespan, child or paediatric in their published learning objectives. Eight (40%) universities offered a paediatric stand-alone course. Sixty-five (13/20) percent of universities invited, responded to the survey. For paediatric conditions the perceived level of importance was predominately higher than its course content coverage for 19 of the 31 conditions surveyed. Key barriers to implementating paediatric curriculum were: crowded curriculum, limited financial resources resulting in a lack of qualified staff, lack of prioritisation of paediatric curriculum and inadequate paediatric placement availability. Facilitators for effective implementation of paediatric content were stand-alone paediatric subjects, demonstrated dedication to paediatric curriculum and having suitably qualified faculty members.
Conclusion: The results of this survey provide the physiotherapy community with the views of paediatric physiotherapy academic educators regarding the content, perceived need to expand content delivery in identified clinical areas, and the barriers and facilitators to implementing paediatric content in Australian entry-level physiotherapy programs. Further research exploring similar questions with paediatric physiotherapy clinicians would complement the findings of this study.
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