Keele University successfully implement their first integrated clinical academic student physiotherapy placement scheme

A Keele University researcher has developed a new and innovative placement scheme which allows physiotherapy students to gain a practical insight into the life and career path of a clinical academic physiotherapist.

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and Health Education England (HEE) currently offer an Integrated Clinical Academic Programme, which provides a range of opportunities to healthcare professionals to undertake health research whilst continuing their clinical work.

Keele University’s Research Institute for Primary Care and Health Sciences and the School for Health and Rehabilitation joined forces with the Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation (MPFT) to extend these opportunities to pre-registered physiotherapy students through this new placement scheme.

The elective scheme provides Keele University physiotherapy students with the opportunity to experience this integrated clinical-research role through a 5-week placement, whereby 40% of the student’s time will be spent within a clinical setting where they’ll get hands-on experience within a musculoskeletal out-patient service at the Haywood Hospital, Stoke on Trent.

The other 60% of their time will be spent within a research setting, working alongside research teams at the Keele University’s Research Institute for Primary Care and Health Sciences. Here they engage in various research activities including: student team meetings, patient research engagement meetings, focussed writing tasks, reviewing, critiquing and presenting literature to inform evidence-based practice, and developing practical insights into the day-to-day experiences of clinical academic physiotherapy.

Dr Martin Thomas, a Keele University Research Fellow and award holder of the HEE/NIHR Integrated Clinical Academic Clinical Lecturer Award who developed and launched this new scheme said:

“Integrated clinical academic role opportunities for allied health professionals are becoming more common in the NHS thanks to the HEE and NIHR Integrated Clinical Academic pathway.  

"Identifying interested students at the earliest stages of their career and presenting them with experience and insights before they qualify will hopefully help to build clinical research capacity and capability at the grass roots.

"Continuing to provide and develop these opportunities with our local NHS partners can also help us to make these kinds of roles more sustainable for the local economy, ensuring that the provision of services is based on the best available evidence, therefore improving outcomes for patients.”

Keele University student, Jess Pun, who is the first physiotherapy student to take part in this new scheme added:

“This well-organised, thought-provoking and inspirational placement has helped me develop many transferrable skills within a supportive environment.

"The wide range of opportunities has allowed me to gain an appreciation of the research cycle from various angles, such as the implementation of research into practice, critiquing literature, and adapting evidence to the challenges of practice.

"The opportunity has inspired me to be open-minded and critical as an emerging physiotherapist and has provided me with a strong foundation to develop evidence-based practice in my future career, and perhaps within a wider career direction and I'm very grateful for having the opportunity to take part in this placement, and hope it will continue to benefit other fellow students.”

Due to its success, plans are now being made to integrate this elective placement option into all taught physiotherapy programmes at Keele University.