Teaching person-centered practice to pre-registration physiotherapy students: a qualitative study

Killingback, Clare, Tomlinson, Amy, Thompson, Mark, Whitfield, Clare and Stern, Julian (2023) Teaching person-centered practice to pre-registration physiotherapy students: a qualitative study. Physiotherapy Theory and Practice. pp. 1-13. ISSN 1532-5040


There has been a call for healthcare to consider more explicitly the needs of the individual patient by adopting a person-centered approach to practice. Consideration needs to be given to how this is taught to pre-registration physiotherapy students.

To understand how first-year pre-registration physiotherapy students envision their philosophy of practice and how person-centered aspects of that philosophy might be implemented in a clinical setting.

Semi-structured interviews were carried out with 10 first-year physiotherapy students. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis.

Five themes were identified: 1) understanding the person and their direction of travel; 2) contextual factors that impact on the delivery of person-centered practice; 3) awareness of personality traits; 4) doing the small things; and 5) the person-centered learning curve.

Understanding the person and knowing what is important to them is central to the participant’s philosophy of practice. They drew on specific personality traits such as listening, being patient, or using small talk to develop rapport to better understand the person they were working with. Despite the challenge of high-pressured, under resourced healthcare contexts, student physiotherapists would strive to do the small things for each person they were working with. Practice-based learning settings presented a steep learning curve and appeared to be important in developing person-centered skills which were introduced in the university setting.

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