During COVID-19 a significant proportion (circa 50%) of physiotherapy student placements have been put on hold, delaying graduation and affecting progression from year two to three. Whilst Health Education England has arranged for Hospital Trusts to accommodate certain students as Health Care Practitioners (HCPs), which allows training hours to be built up and some students to graduate early, there are a proportion of aspiring physios who have been left in limbo.
The Connect Health Virtual Student Placement initiative has been created by Matthew Wyatt, Consultant Physiotherapist, and commenced on 19th May initially with 25 students from two universities, closely followed by another 40 students who started on 1st June, in partnership with Brunel University, King’s College London, and St George’s University and 120 following soon after.
The ground-breaking initiative is unique in structure and size by offering three different elements completely virtually from the student’s own home or dorms.
- Remote consultations allows students to shadow/co-deliver patient care with clinicians by phone or video. This offers enormous diversity to traditional placements as students shadow occupational health physio services, physiotherapy, advanced practice clinics in sports and exercise medicine, occupational therapy, rheumatology consultants and psychology. There is access to online consultations to pain clinics and Pain Management Programmes and group case discussion sessions outside of the clinic environment.
- Facebook Live has enabled the delivery of virtual group rehabilitation, exercise and education sessions to patients and the public via Connect Health Facebook pages.
- A virtual student academy in Workplace from Facebook, enabling access to interactions with over 400 clinicians and a broad range of exciting educational resources provided as part of Connect Health’s Clinical Academy. This includes 20/30 mins daily CPD sessions delivered by senior clinicians, Connect Health’s Virtual Clinical Conference and online learning modules.
The scheme has had international appeal with students taking part from their home countries in Canada, Barcelona, Ireland and Singapore. Interestingly, patients from all over the world have also been joining our virtual rehab and exercise classes (hosted over Facebook by our students).
The initiative has been a resounding success with students, patients and educational institutions alike:
A student on placement said
I’m one of the students in your first cohort here at Connect Health and I’ve been really impressed and just generally really enjoyed the whole experience – a huge learning opportunity in many aspects and lots of benefits that I would never have had with a conventional placement!
Lynn Dosis has lived and worked in Corfu for 26 years and 6 months ago, started to get significant pain in her shoulder. She added
Without access to the live videos I would have been stuck at home in pain. I live 5km up a mountain and would have struggled to drive the 45 minutes to see the doctor. I’m just so happy I can do things again. I went through so much pain for so long and then I was in lockdown and didn’t know what to do.
Dr Claire White, Education Lead for Physiotherapy, King’s College London said
With healthcare services significantly disrupted during the Covid-19 pandemic, we have been working with Connect Health to develop an innovative remote clinical placement for our physiotherapy students. This ensures that despite a reduction in traditional face to face placements, students can gain essential practice experience working with patients, families and professionals and enable them to continue with their studies. The remote placement model is a fantastic learning opportunity with exposure to MSK practitioners right across the Connect Health network. This is vital in supporting their professional development and maintaining the flow of graduates into the workforce.
To find out how we set up the programme, and to help set up your own, take a look at our blog: