Challenges faced by Prosthetics and Orthotics students on clinical placement

Fiona Speirs , Christine McMonagle

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Background: An essential component of the Prosthetics and Orthotics (P&O) undergraduate course at the University of Strathclyde is the practice placement. Students undertake two, four month placements in each discipline in clinics in the UK, Ireland or overseas. Clinical placements present many challenges (Andrews et al., 2006, Sharif and Masoumi, 2005). Whilst there is literature investigating the challenges faced by other AHP students on placement, little is known specifically about the challenges that P&O students face on placement.
Aims: To investigate the challenges experienced by P&O students on clinical placement, and to create a student-led guide using this information to support students on placement in the future.
Method: Nine participants took part in a focus group discussion. Participants were final year Prosthetic and Orthotic students who had completed their placement in 2019 in the UK or Ireland. A focus group was held to better understand the students’ thoughts and feelings around placement (Sharif and Masoumi, 2005). The participants were asked questions about the placement assessment and structure, wellbeing, accommodation and travel, finance and support from supervisors. The discussion was recorded, transcribed and pseudo-anonymised, and analysis was carried out using Nvivo software. Analysis was approached using Braun and Clarke’s (2006) six phase method, for thematic analysis of qualitative data.
Results: Five themes relating to different challenges emerged from the focus group; challenges related to: the placement centre and staff, finance and accommodation, relationships with supervisors and placement staff, wellbeing, and advice for future students. Theme 1; challenges related to placement centre and staff, was broken down into three subthemes; challenges related to; (A) the size/patient numbers in a centre, (B) the structure and assessment of the placement and (C) the supervisor’s teaching methods. Although several challenges of clinical placements were discussed, many positive aspects of placements also came to light, such as characteristics of a good placement supervisor and aspects of a successful placement. Many students gave advice to future students on how to navigate their way through placement.
Discussion and Conclusions: This project identified several challenges that P&O students face on placement. Several challenges were similar to those in other AHP literature, however P&O students face some unique challenges. Universities and placement centres should ensure students are well supported in every area of their education and understand external issues which can impact on student learning. A guide was created using participant experience and advice to aid future students through their placement.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 4 Nov 2021
EventISPO 18th World Congress 2021 - Virtual
Duration: 1 Nov 20214 Nov 2021
Conference number: 18


ConferenceISPO 18th World Congress 2021
Internet address


  • clinical placements
  • challenges
  • undergraduate students
  • prosthetics and orthotics


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