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Filling the gap – A graduate development programme in the primary care MSK setting

18 October 2018

Ahead of this weekend’s CSP Physio UK Conference in Birmingham, Tammy Baird, Learning and Development Business Partner, looks forward to spreading the word about the implementation of Connect’s innovative Graduate Development Programme (GDP).

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When two of the conference themes were announced earlier in the year as Musculoskeletal and Primary Care and Workforce Transformation, we saw a great opportunity to write an abstract detailing the work we had undertaken to design, deliver and evaluate our structured Graduate programme.

Why this programme is important

The national shortage of Physio’s is well-documented, creating difficulties in recruitment at a time of growing demand. As a Team Leader for one of our Primary Care Services, I recall being in a meeting discussing opportunities for recruiting newly qualified Physio’s. This was something we had done previously but with limited success –

graduates had reported finding the setting daunting due to a limited exposure at undergrad level and a perception of specialism.

Using clinical competency evaluation we also identified patterns of common learning needs in this group of staff. These factors led us to question whether we should be pursuing the employment of graduates or focus elsewhere.

However, it also meant that we were well placed to re-evaluate, sit down and design a new fit for purpose programme. It needed to be tailored to build graduates MSK knowledge, skills, values and behaviours to enable them to develop into safe, effective, confident Physiotherapists whilst reflecting the specific service needs in which they would work.

National programme: Combining theory with practice-based learning

Following discussions with Team Leads, Managers and recently qualified clinicians 3 pillars of graduate development were identified – Communication skills, clinical reasoning and red flags and safety. These pillars formed the basis of the programme. The initial 3 weeks consisting of structured interactive evidence-based workshops, clinician shadowing, joint clinics, the allocation of a clinical buddy and exposure to the patients, service and team in which they would be working. The next phase kept the 3 areas of development at its core with increasing levels of caseload ownership, structured supervision, patient case discussion, reflection, notes audits and ongoing shadowing. A key result of this was providing graduates with the confidence to develop and express their reasoning skills in a safe and competent manner.

We felt that it important to capture feedback to evaluate programme effectiveness and develop for future intakes. Feedback has shown that the newly qualified staff felt supported and valued whilst developing key clinical reasoning skills.

Physiotherapists recruited onto the national programme expressed their satisfaction with how regular engagement from confident practitioners was coupled effectively with the ability to practice in an autonomous manner.

What we have learned

I have learned a lot from my involvement in the Graduate Development Programme – Firstly it has highlighted the need to be innovative in methods of recruitment, to seek solutions to workforce issues in this time of growing demand. We have also seen a boost in staff engagement – staff have shone in their roles of mentors and natural leadership skills emerged. Finally, I have been amazed by the attitudes, willingness to learn and determination of the graduates who have been through the programme. It is great to see the CSP recognising workforce transformation and Primary Care as areas of professional development. We sincerely hope that our Graduate Development Programme continues to provide an innovative framework that supports, values and develops clinicians on their MSK journey.

If you’re at the conference make sure you come and see our poster in hall 3, number 102.

View the poster

Interested in our Graduate Development Programme? Contact us at

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