In 2019, the General Chiropractic Council’s Education Committee published new guidance to support the educational standards for clinical placements as part of its ambition to develop the profession from the grass root level.
Clinical placements can be defined as:
“Any arrangement in which a chiropractic student is in an environment that provides chiropractic services to patients. Students can be actively involved in patient care, or they can be observing” (GCC, 2019).
Clinical placements have long been utilised within the curricula of numerous mainstream conventional healthcare professions. They provide a valuable opportunity for educational institutions to integrate real-life clinical experiences into the current curriculum, enrichening and facilitating the learning experience. The benefits of such an integration to the student are extensive and include the establishment of core values, moral principles, communication, and interpersonal skills, whilst exposing students to the culture of the profession which they are entering.
A formalised clinical chiropractic placement model
The MSci Chiropractic degree programme at Teesside University has endeavoured to offer a formalised clinical chiropractic placement model from year 1 through to year 4. Based on a framework that encompasses a longitudinal, early patient-contact approach, it aims to provide a continuous learning opportunity spanning across all years of the programme.
What it entails
First year students will participate in both chiropractic-specific and NHS placements. The chiropractic-specific element is purely observatory in nature and runs alongside the Foundation Skills for Chiropractic Practice module whereby students delve into fundamental topics such as subjective assessment, consent and the GCC Code of Practice. Within the NHS placements students act as volunteers on the orthopaedic, neurology and acute frailty wards.
As students progress into their second year, placement days are purely chiropractic-specific, and the students visit private clinics within the locality of the university. At this stage they can practise their subjective assessment skills under the supervision of their practice educator.
In a similar fashion, come third year, the students will be able to practise their objective skills learned the year before. Thus, the overarching theme of the model is to allow for a seamless progression through the first three years of the course linking theoretical knowledge to clinical practice throughout, with the end goal of producing competent clinicians by the time they enter the fourth clinical year.
The feedback so far
Overall, feedback from the practice educators has been extremely positive. They have expressed personal satisfaction of facilitating student learning and observing the development of their skills under their mentorship. Similarly, the students themselves have found the placements extremely motivating and report having been able to develop their basic clinical skills and competencies whilst applying what they have learned in the classroom in a real-life situation.
How successful the model will be is yet to be seen as the degree programme is currently in its second year since inception. However, as a chiropractic lecturer, watching the students grow in both confidence and maturity following their placements has been extremely rewarding.
The benefits are endless
To conclude, the Chiropractic Clinical Placement model at Teesside University has vast potential. It encourages intersectoral collaboration which is imperative if we want to attain professional integration with the wider healthcare community. It also improves the levels of mentor support, student commitment and personal development the students are exposed too. This will hopefully facilitate the development of high-quality, sustainable clinical learning opportunities for the chiropractors of tomorrow.