Physiotherapy student Beinn, shares his experience of undertaking an integrated virtual and clinical placement during the pandemic.
Structure of my placement
This year due to COVID-19 I am having to undertake my placement a bit differently, with an integrated virtual and clinical placement.
My week is made up of 3 days virtual working (Monday-Wednesday) and 2 days in the clinic (Thursday-Friday). The beginning of the week includes project work, online consultations with physiotherapy clinic SPEAR and visiting my befriend scheme participant. Then the end of the week provides me with the opportunity to see patients face to face and virtually, practice my clinical skills and work on my placement goals with my clinical educator.
The befriending scheme is a project that Robert Gordon University was asked to be a part of. Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy (OT) students are paired up and given a participant who has been referred through the NHS, these participants have been isolated as a result of COVID-19. Our role is to spend time getting to know the participant including their interests and goals. I then work collaboratively with my OT partner to decide upon what we can do to help our participant meet their goals and be able to engage in their interests during this challenging period. For the participant I have been working with, we have been learning how to use the iPad together to enable her to be able to connect with her friends and family from home. We then have the opportunity to feedback on our progress with professionals and other befrienders in a meeting at the end of the week where we are able to share ideas, gain advice, and be signposted towards any resources that may be useful.
When going to visit my participant COVID-19 regulations must be adhered to. I have my mask, apron and gloves on, my participant has her mask on and we maintain a 2 metre distance throughout my visit. It must also be noted that a face-to-face visit as I am doing is a last resort, but can be done if a more effective intervention can be provided than over the phone/virtually. In this case we are learning how to use the iPad with a view to utilising this new skill to complete our interventions on zoom.
The private physiotherapy clinic SPEAR kindly offered me a morning each week to shadow 2 or 3 online virtual consultations. This is a great opportunity to gain insight into a variety of different approaches to assessment and treatment. I then compile my notes and have a phone call the following morning with one of the physiotherapists to discuss the patients I have seen, including my thoughts, ideas and any questions I may have. The is extremely valuable in terms of developing my clinical reasoning.
As with most placements, project work is involved. This is usually focused around an area of interesting discussion that has come up between the student and educator, or a topic which you may have been lacking knowledge in. This placement involves a few projects which I have the time to work on at the start of the week. These include case studies, reflective pieces, and presentations. For me, this includes a case study around hip flexor tendinopathy which I will also write a reflective piece on and a presentation on tendinopathies. Other projects I am working on include this blog and a vlog I am making about my experience on this placement.
RGU Physiotherapy Clinic
It is great to finish the week off working in the RGU Physiotherapy Clinic as I get the opportunity to assess and treat a few patients in person. Completing virtual consultations is also valuable in allowing me to continue to improve my subjective assessment (the questioning before we complete assessment and treatment). Having a quieter caseload than I would on a normal placement provides me with a great opportunity to spend time with my educator discussing and practicing the ins and outs of all my assessment work. For this placement, I have been particularly working on my hip and shoulder assessment.
When working practically or completing a face-to-face appointment with a patient we must be dressed in our apron and gloves and both parties must be wearing a mask. Ensuring to wipe down all surfaces and equipment after use.
My feelings on the integrated virtual and clinical placement
I am extremely grateful for this placement, coming into it I was concerned about how it was going to work and if it was even possible to provide the opportunities and support I would require in order to have an effective placement. Four weeks in now though, I am thankful to be a part of this unique experience. Having time to take part in the befriend scheme which otherwise would not have been possible, being able to collaborate with a wide range of physiotherapists on a weekly basis, and having a number of projects to work on allowing me to enhance my knowledge and confidence in specific topics. In addition, I’m still getting that valuable time in the clinic to work on my clinical skills where there is more time to have one on one practice with my educator as well as working face to face and virtually with patients. All of these opportunities have provided me with a placement that is as comprehensive and developmental for me as a normal placement, if not more so.
The message I would like to give to any student going into a virtual or integrated virtual and clinical placement is to be open-minded, adaptable, and organised. Being on this course I imagine these are all skills every student embodies but everyone is learning how to make these placements work as well as the opportunities within them. Being able to be adaptable and flexible is extremely important to make the most of everything you are offered. With these opportunities, they are what you make them. For example, I am not particularly using my physiotherapy knowledge by participating in the befriending scheme, but it provides the opportunity to develop my communication skills and practice building patient rapport. Finally like with any placement it is extremely important to be organised when working virtually, you are for the most part in charge of how you use your time to complete project work around attending meetings and virtual consultations. Keep on top of it and you will have a great experience!
Beinn Burroughs, Masters of Physiotherapy Year 3 at RGU