Physiotherapy Internships: How to Get the Most Out of Your Clinical Placement

I graduated from the University of Toronto Physical Therapy program in 2015, and throughout the program participated in six clinical physiotherapy internships. These placements afforded the opportunity to learn about different areas of practice, and to work with different clinical instructors with unique teaching styles.

Since graduating, I have remained involved with University of Toronto, supervising students during clinical exposure sessions, and as a clinical instructor for musculoskeletal and neuro placements. Based on my experience, I have identified some tips that can help students to make the most out of their clinical placements and be able to transfer the knowledge gained during placements into their career.

1. Be prepared for your physiotherapy internship

If you know that you are going to be working with a specific client population (i.e. spinal cord injury) take the time to review your notes in advance and bring any materials you think you might need. This demonstrates both enthusiasm and shows initiative throughout your placement; traits that impress potential employers.

If you see a condition that you are not familiar with, research it at home. Be ready to learn from your clients, clinical instructors, and all members of the rehabilitation team, and try to bring a positive and motivating energy to all of your client interactions.

2. Be open to learning different physiotherapy techniques

Clinicians have different ways of achieving the same thing, whether it is assessment or treatment techniques. Working with many clinicians will allow you to sample their different techniques and find what works best for you, or combine them to form your own strategy. For example, if you work with two clinicians who are different heights, they are likely going to use handling techniques that work the best for them.

Ask to practice on your clinical instructors and other students, they will be able to tell you if your technique is effective, or if anything needs to be modified. This is particularly important with new skills, as you want to be as comfortable and confident as possible before trying something on your actual clients.

3. Get your hands on as many different clients as possible

The clinical setting yields a much more diverse group of people than clinical labs in school. This may be your first opportunity to feel different types of tissue, injuries, and dysfunctions. Allowing yourself the opportunity to handle as many clients as possible will provide you the exposure and experience to troubleshoot working with people of different shapes, sizes, and with different health conditions.

4. Be open to feedback and constructive criticism

Feedback from your clinical instructors and your clients is invaluable during the learning process. Take this opportunity to seek out feedback and adjust your techniques accordingly to make them as effective as possible. Decide with your clinical instructor what type of feedback you prefer, and at what intervals, and schedule time for this accordingly.

5. If a client asks you a question that you do not know the answer to, it’s okay to say you don’t know

Use this opportunity to liaise with your clinical instructor and complete independent research, and come back to the client at a subsequent session with an answer. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your clinical instructor. Student placements are a great opportunity to make even seasoned clinicians critically reflect on their clinical reasoning and justification for using a specific treatment technique.

6. Practice taking a subjective history and work hard to establish rapport with your clients

Good client-therapist relationships are built on listening attentively, asking probing questions, and remembering details about clients. It goes a long way to remember little things like the name of their dog, or details about their family. Clients will be more responsive and demonstrate better buy in to the rehabilitation process if you are able to establish a strong therapeutic relationship.

7. Do not pass up opportunities to interact with other members of the rehabilitation team

This will give you better perspective regarding the different roles on the team and when referrals might be appropriate, and also fosters better client-centered care. Establishing good communication with other professionals provides you the opportunity to practice advocating for your clients, as you can let them know where the clients stands from a physiotherapy perspective, and what you anticipate they may need in the future. This is also an opportunity to start growing your professional network, as you might be working with these individuals in your future career.

8. Take the opportunity to reflect on your day and week

Think about what has been working well and what you can continue to improve on and let your clinical instructor know. How did you feel about the subjective interview you conducted? Could you have explained that exercise more effectively? When a patient didn’t understand your explanation, how could you have clarified or helped them to better understand?

9. You get out of a physiotherapy internship what you put into it!

At the end of the day, you are responsible for your experience and how much you get out of it. Going into it with a clear set of objectives and reviewing them regularly with your placement supervisor to ensure you are on track will help you to maximizing your experience.

Propel Physiotherapy is a strong advocate and leader of student education and continuous learning.  Since its inception, Propel has provided numerous physiotherapy internships in the areas of orthopaedic placements, neurological placements and business leadership. We are committed to and value an environment of continued learning to improve and achieve superior care for our clients.

Written by

Alanna Holz
Alanna HolzRegistered Physiotherapist
Alanna Holz is passionate about helping her clients achieve their goals and get back to activities that are important to them. Her attentive and encouraging approach helps her develop a strong rapport with clients and makes them feel at ease. She has hands on experience working with multiple client groups, including clients with diverse neurological and orthopaedic conditions, as well as sports injuries. She has a special interest in concussion management and rehabilitation.




Let us help you maximize your mobility and improve your performance in daily activities.

By |2020-10-23T14:44:54+00:00October 19th, 2020|Physiotherapy, Pickering Community|0 Comments