My name is Maegan Mak and I am a Paediatric Physiotherapist working in private practice at Kids Physio Group. I graduated from the Master of Physical Therapy program at UBC in 2014 and have worked in private paediatrics since I graduated. When I was in the MPT program the placements I completed were Residential care at Brock Fahrni, VGH ICU, Laurel Place Neurological Rehabilitation, Paediatrics in rural India, Paediatrics at the Child Development Centre in Williams Lake and Orthopaedic Outpatient at VGH. To this day I vividly remember my experiences at each of these placements and implement aspects that I learned into my daily practice. My preceptors played a huge role in all of my experiences and are what made my placements so enjoyable, knowledge-enriched and memorable.
About one year into working as a physiotherapist, Sue Murphy came to do a clinical educators presentation to educate our therapists on what we would need to do as a clinic to have a student, the details of the practical portion of the physiotherapy program and the benefits of having a student for the clinic and therapist. At the time I attended the presentation thinking that eventually I would like to take a student when I had more experience. I honestly believed that I didn’t have enough to offer yet, as I had recently graduated. By the end of Sue’s presentation my mind had been changed and 6 months later, a colleague and I were sharing a Level 3 student! Since the presentation I have now had two students.
My two largest concerns with taking a student were the following: if I could maintain the same standard of care to my patients who were paying out of pocket for treatment and that I was not ready to mentor someone as I was still a new grad. After having the student and reflecting on my experience, I realized that my concerns were false. I found being a clinical supervisor to be beneficial on several levels. It was beneficial for the student, myself, the patients and the clinic as a whole.
The clinic that I work for is quite a niche market, as it is private practice and in paediatrics. The variety of cases seen in our clinic is literally anything requiring physiotherapy for children aged 0-18 years old. Some examples of common conditions I treat are torticollis, plagiocephaly, gross motor delay, developmental coordination disorder , cerebral palsy, downs syndrome, muscular dystrophies, sports injuries, concussions and much more. As you can see, there is so much to learn in order to treat paediatric specific conditions. For a student, it is an amazing opportunity to learn about some of these diagnoses, work with the patients and potentially increase the desire to pursue a career in paediatric physiotherapy. They started by becoming familiar with the facility, other therapists and the flow of the clinic. In the first part of the placement they mostly observed sessions and we had time at the end to debrief and answer any questions. As the placement progressed the student gained more hands on experience, took responsibility in treatment planning, execution and charting. By the end, they were conducting full assessments, treatment sessions, education to patients and families and providing home exercise programs. Although the time to gain independence in this particular private placement may have been longer than other placements, in the end I believe the student was able to gain more confidence with the skills they acquired, especially since it was in such a unique area. I think a private practice placement is beneficial for the student so they can experience a variety of conditions, learn about contractor and employee positions, have responsibility for treatment in set time spots, thus improving time management, and building relationships with patents who come to physiotherapy regularly.
Private practice is also valuable for students because they learn about various funding methods specific to your clinic. In my case, the students have learned about funding from the provincial ministry, charities, extended health benefits and ICBC. Working in a private setting also allows students to work with patients as it applies to their daily life and not a hospital setting. For example, my students were working on goals to help with independence at home, school, improving skills for sport and other activities. Students in a private placement learn the value of building and maintaining a caseload, making it more successful for them if they decide to work in private practice once they graduate. The students also learned how to make fun and engaging environments for kids of all different abilities. Another challenging aspect was perfecting communication skills with the child and with the parent and identifying how to change their language based on who they were speaking with. Overall, private practice
placements are an amazing learning opportunity for physiotherapy students and one that they will remember for the rest of their careers!
Having a physiotherapy student was also beneficial to myself and my colleague. I found it helpful to have a fresh set of eyes on current patients to help identify new goals I could add to our treatment plan, bring current research knowledge, new exercises/games I could implement and as a resource to educate patients at the end of a session. The student helped write out home exercise programs and teach the kids how to do them correctly. This was helpful because it allowed me extra time to work with another patient and to learn new exercises that the student may be familiar with. I found it very rewarding to teach a student, share my passion and was very inspired by their energy and desire to learn. It kept me on my toes during sessions, having to explain what I was doing, the reasoning behind it and my goals. The questions the students asked me also helped me reflect on my practice and highlighted ways that I could become better. After the five week placement I felt refreshed and my passion
for private paediatrics had grown even more.
My clients LOVED having my physiotherapy students for the five weeks. It has been a month since my last student completed their placement and my clients are still asking if the student will be coming back! Having a student was a positive experience for my clients on so many levels. It allowed them to work with someone new and go outside of their comfort zone to build rapport with another therapist. This was most significant for my long standing patients who attend physiotherapy regularly. The student offered a new outlook for patients and implemented different games and exercises, which were thoroughly enjoyed. Some of my kids get overly comfortable if they’ve been seeing me for a prolonged period and can occasionally not listen well or push the boundaries. The student was a new face, which meant the kids worked hard, and were able to be challenged even more! Once the student finished their placement I was able to continue where they left off and continue progressing the child appropriately. The kids were refreshed, more attentive and ready to be challenged.
In addition to all the benefits discussed above, the clinic also enjoyed having a physiotherapy student. They helped bring the entire team at the clinic together. Everyone jumped in to teach different things they were interested in, show the student the culture of our clinic and reiterate everyone’s passion for physiotherapy. The student was able to become familiar with a private clinic setting and could potentially work at the clinic upon graduation if there was interest from both sides. I am so happy that Sue came to do the presentation at our clinic when she did. I have loved having students every year and look forward to future students who I will get to teach. All the concerns I had initially were quickly clarified and now I am aware of all the benefits to the student, my patients, colleagues, myself and the clinic. As a new grad, I was able to easily relate to the student and recall my experiences during previous placements. I believe this improves my teaching to the student and is a good reminder to reflect on past experiences, patients and set personal learning goals. I strongly recommend having a physiotherapy student in your private practice! You have so much to offer and have the opportunity to positively influence a future physiotherapist.