Unwrapping the layers of complexity of clinical performance assessment of physiotherapy students and identifying key stakeholders' preferences towards enhancing the process

Clinical performance assessment of health professional students is imperative as it provides a measure of a students readiness to practice within their profession. However, it is widely acknowledged as being inherently problematic. Difficulties reported by clinicians in medicine, nursing, psychology and social work include the challenge of acting as student mentor and trainer in a nurturing clinical environment on one hand while also acting as student assessor and delivering a passing or failing grade at the end of the placement. Considerable responsibility is placed on the clinician in this role. Ultimately, they are accountable for signing off on a students readiness to work as a clinician, thus acting as gatekeeper for the public and their safety, as well as gatekeeper for their profession. Reluctance and anxiety among clinicians involved in failing underperforming students is alluded to in medicine and nursing literature but has not been explored in physiotherapy. As assessment processes vary between health professions, this requires exploration in a physiotherapy context as the implications for patient safety and welfare are as significant as for other health professionals. This research will explore clinical performance assessment within a physiotherapy context to understand more deeply the challenges and facilitators of the process; how decisions are made by clinicians engaged in student assessment, and how support structures by HEI affiliated practice education staff are perceived by clinicians and students. Findings will provide insight and direction towards optimising the assessment process for both students and clinicians benefitting patient safety and health service delivery.  Findings will also provide a foundation for a framework upon which future improvements of the clinical performance assessment can be developed.


Award Date
26 May 2016
Award Value
Principal Investigator
Professor Anne O'Connor
Host Institution
University of Limerick
Research Training Fellowships for Healthcare Professionals