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Physiotherapy in different international health contexts

This project is an open-access learning opportunity for physiotherapy students to collaborate with students from another institution in a different country in order to develop students’ understanding of how the role and scope of physiotherapy changes based on the health and social care context that the physiotherapist is working in.

Physiotherapy in different international health

The basic format of the project is a video conference between students in two different countries with differing healthcare contexts. In the video conference students discuss how the same patient case study would be managed within their own health system, considering aspects including the role and scope of physiotherapists in providing care, the location and funding of care and rehabilitation at different points of a patient’s journey and gaps in their local provision. Students then have the opportunity to discuss the similarities and differences between the management of a person with the same medical and rehabilitation needs in their different international contexts. Finally students discuss what a utopian healthcare provision might look like for such a person and what the physiotherapist’s role might be within such a system, drawing on the strengths and weaknesses of their respective systems.

Background and development

This presentation reflecting on the original project run and evaluation was delivered at PhysiotherapyUK 2017 in the UK and is based on a write-up of the original project for my Teaching & learning in HE PGCert.

In this In Beta podcast on internationalisation we discuss some of the rationale for internationalisation of the curriculum and how this has been applied in physiotherapy education.

Taking part

In this section you can find details of how the project works and the resources to run the learning activity. We are looking to establish a group of collaborating institutions who will run this activity between groups of their students annually. In the first instance we would like to invite physiotherapy programmes interested in taking part to put forward a single group of 5-6 students in March/April 2019. We are also registering interest for future runs of the project, which will allow increased access from the 2019/20 academic year.

Running the project – March / April 2019

  1. Register your interest in this run of the project by emailing Ben Ellis (
  2. Identify a group of 5-6 students. The learning activity works best for students with some experience of clinical practice in their health context, for example 3rd or 4th year students.
  3. Introduce the project to your students, using the case study instructions and resources. Each group will produce a 20 minute presentation that discusses the role of the physiotherapist and how the case subject’s needs are met by the healthcare system at four time points on his rehabilitation journey.
  4. Ask your students to complete the pre-task part of the evaluation questionnaire
  5. Arrange a time and date for the video conference with your linked group, allowing around 90 minutes for this part of the task (we suggest using Google Hangouts which is freely accessible and will allow screen sharing to present slides, but other options may work better for you)
  6. On the day of the video conference, the two groups of students take it in turns to present their version of the case study’s rehabilitation journey. The groups can ask questions after the presentations to clarify or expand on any points. Once both groups have presented, facilitate a discussion around the following three questions
    • What are the key similarities between the role of physiotherapy and organisation of rehabilitation in the two different contexts?
    • What are the key differences between the role of physiotherapy and organisation of rehabilitation in the two different contexts?
    • If you were starting a new health and social care system from scratch in a utopian society, how would you organise the rehabilitation of this person and what roles would a physiotherapist play?
  7. After the video conference, we would encourage you to reflect on the discussion with you students. It is up to you what format this takes.
  8. Ask your students to complete the post-task part of the evaluation questionnaire

Running the project in the 2019/20 academic year and beyond

If you are interested in making this learning task a regular part of your curriculum and having groups of 3rd or 4th year physiotherapy students taking part every year, please register your interest by emailing Ben Ellis (, letting me know how many students would be taking part from your institution and when it would fit into your programme calendar.

Whilst we are keen to develop reciprocal collaboration between multiple HEIs, you are also welcome to use the resources to run the task with your existing international collaborations. We only ask that you let us know and credit In Beta and ask students to fill out the pre- and post-task questionnaires as we are using these to evaluate whether taking part in an activity like this has any impact on students’ conceptions of physiotherapy in an internationalised context.

If you have further questions or want further information please contact Ben Ellis (email: Twitter: @bendotellis)

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