Perspectives from physiotherapy supervisors on student-patient communication

Robyn Woodward-Kron1, Diana van Die2, Gillian Webb3, John Pill2, Catherine Elder2, Tim McNamara2 and Elizabeth Manias3

1Medical Education Unit, University of Melbourne, Australia

2Language Testing Research Centre, University of Melbourne, Australia

3Melbourne School of Health Sciences, University of Melbourne, Australia

Submitted: 11/07/2012; Accepted: 18/08/2012; Published: 31/08/2012

Int J Med Educ. 2012; 3:166-174; doi: 10.5116/ijme.502f.6e18

© 2012 Robyn Woodward-Kron et al. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use of work provided the original work is properly cited. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Objectives: To explore what Australian physiotherapy educators value in student-patient clinical communication by investigating their feedback on physiotherapy students' communication with patients in practice settings. These findings were compared to the national standard descriptors.

Methods: A qualitative study design incorporated delayed time feedback elicited in two workshops from 12 partici-pants who viewed video recorded interactions as triggers for discussion, and real time feedback observed in a hospital setting of 14 clinical supervisors and their students. Both sets of feedback were audio-recorded, transcribed and analysed thematically.

Results: The findings identified five major themes in the clinical supervisor and educators' feedback: non-verbal communication, manner, language, content and organisa-tion, and interactional tools. In the findings, several of the themes resonate with those espoused in available communication frameworks. The findings provide examples of the framework descriptors.

Conclusions: The findings provide important information about the communication skills, attitudes and behaviours that are valued by clinical supervisors and educators. The findings can be used to inform standard setting and curriculum development. Knowledge gained about students' communication skills in practice settings can assist in enhancing communication between physiotherapy students and patients, and it can ultimately contribute to improving patient safety and treatment outcomes.