UCD School of Physiotherapy promise that graduating class will reach required standards for accreditation

Image Credit: Dominic Daly

UCD School of Physiotherapy promise that graduating class will reach required standards for accreditation, despite fears over insufficient placement spaces.

A letter was circulated by the UCD BSc Physiotherapy graduating class of 2021 on November 25th, fearing that without the required 1000 hours students would not be entitled to graduate or their physiotherapy accreditation. Speaking to The University Observer, Prof. Catherine Blake, Dean and Head of the School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sport Science, acknowledged the issues raised and assured students that they would facilitate the required number of hours for clinical placements; “We will ensure all our 2021 graduates will undertake the required 1000 hours clinical placements and will graduate in a timely manner”. 

As a class of fifty-four, it was understood by the students that only twenty-nine placement places would be offered. They called on the UCDSU to help lobby “placement sites and relevant higher authorities to ensure we complete our degree in its entirety... As a group of 54 students of this institution, we feel helpless and powerless to affect a change on our own”. 

The letter expressed that while nursing, midwifery, radiography and medicine students from UCD have all been granted placements as normal, they had not. The letter explained: “The inability to secure these places is as a result of Covid-19 restrictions being used as a blockade to our educational requirements. This does not seem to apply to other universities or even to other healthcare students in our own university. This is unacceptable. Every other university in Ireland offering BSc Physiotherapy (The Royal College of Surgeons Ireland, Trinity College Dublin and the University of Limerick) have secured the necessary amount of placement hours for every single one of their final year students” 

“Physiotherapists play a crucial role on the multidisciplinary team in hospital settings and we are extremely unimpressed to be the only cohort of UCD healthcare students who have not been facilitated with on-site placement, with Medical, Nursing and Radiography students all having secured placements throughout the pandemic. There is a distinct disparity between how we are being treated when compared to those who will be our future colleagues. Whose place is it to say that we are any lesser than nurses, doctors and radiographers?”  

In response, Prof. Blake said: “By way of further context, the Covid-19 restrictions have resulted in an unprecedented disruption to the usual clinical placement provision. Physiotherapy students have been particularly affected due to the reduced capacity of our clinical partners to accommodate our students, which has been in the main due to social distancing requirements on placement sites and also as a result of redeployment of Physiotherapists to Covid-19 related testing and contact tracing.  

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated what was already a very challenging placement environment for Physiotherapy education providers. UCD and the Physiotherapy programme teams have been in regular discussions with the HSE to seek to establish sustainable clinical education, in addition to securing long-term high-level placement provision for our students, who contribute to our health system”.  

Students highlighted the need to complete placements in order to be eligible for the upcoming recruitment drive by the HSE for The National Health and Social Care Professions Office “specifically targeted at 2020/21 physiotherapy graduates”. Prof Blake welcomed the initiative saying: “Providing high-quality care to patients is at the cornerstone of Physiotherapy practice and education. We therefore welcome the recent recruitment drive for Physiotherapists initiated by the HSE. It has been over a decade since there has been specific funding allocated for the recruitment of therapists.  

As part of the letter from the graduating class of physiotherapists, the personal number of the Practice Education Co-ordinator, Dr Sinead McMahon, was included. Prof Blake requested: “Given the personal nature of this information, we request that you redact these contact details”.