Student placement survival guide


Placement Survival Guide



1)  FIRST Impressions

First impressions really do count. Come prepared with all the documentation you need, check the uniform code, arrive early, be confident and introduce yourself to everyone. A pre-placement visit can also help to set a positive tone with your new team.

2)  Knowledge – Know your basics

We are all students and nobody expects an ESP level of knowledge but brushing up on the basic principles will help you no end. Placement is a great opportunity to show you are well read and will provide you with the tools to effectively build on your knowledge base and apply this clinically. Regularly remind yourself that your opinions and clinical reasoning are just as valid as those of your colleagues.

3)  Reflect on your practice

Do not forget to reflect on every day, both mentally and on paper. It’s a great method of self-improvement by learning from good and bad experiences. Written reflections show honest, open self appraisal and are a great topic of conversation (and point scorers!) during your placement reviews.

4)  Professionalism

On placement you are expected to behave like any other healthcare professional and of course you are representing not only your university, but yourself as an individual and student Physiotherapist. Act responsibly, seek advice in challenging situations but equally use your judgement to take initiative and show responsibility… placement is what you make of it so be proactive. The CSP Professionalism Charter is a great tool as guidance for placements and goal setting.
5)  Ask questions

Everyone has been a student once. Make the most of the opportunity to ask questions of everything and everyone. Challenge processes, ask about clinical practice and the questions a textbook wont answer. Never be afraid to ask the ‘scary Band 7s’ the questions when you get the chance. Chances are, someone else was wondering the same thing.

6)  Talk to everyone

Try to judge the balance well between being friendly within the team and remaining professional. Avoid any particularly controversial topics or unprofessional conversations. However do take the time to enjoy breaks and down time with colleagues. Being hardworking and driven is always good, but also allow the team to see where your interests lie, including outside of Physiotherapy. Be friendly, remain professional and don’t forget to keep an eye out for any opportunities that may arise in conversation.

7)  Timeout

We are all human and time out is a really important aspect of your own well being while on placement and beyond. Make time to meet friends, visit family or just chill out with your own company and get your head out of the books particularly at weekends. Good preparation prior to placement and well-organised study whilst on placement can help ensure you have time to relax at the weekend. Be organised and perhaps set aside a few hours after placement before dinner, to cover topics highlighted throughout the day or week so that you can put your feet up and relax later in the evening and prevent yourself burning out. It is very easy to become swamped with work and become overwhelmed so plan each week well with time for that all-important TIMEOUT.

8)  How High can you jump?

This point, albeit perhaps more controversial, is equally as relevant. Of course a placement is to ensure we develop individually and meet our own goals and expectations and build experience. However it is worth sparing some thought for others expectations and ideas of what you “should be doing”. Some very good fellow students I know have failed to “jump through the hoops” so to speak that their educators may have had for them, and subsequently not done very well. Of course in the world of university points make prizes. Be yourself, ensure you stick to your values and ethics but at the same time open your ideas to what may be required from yourself and for others, it’s a great reflection of true practice, so use this as a learning opportunity.

9)  Goal setting

The dreaded learning objectives/contracts…Make these your own, be ambitious and think outside of the box from the standard learning goals. There will be core skills that need to be achieved but tailor these to your own experiences and weaknesses to direct your goal setting. Discuss these with the whole team as well as your educator. Other members of the team can offer potential learning opportunities, be it surgery a rehab class or even shadowing a clinic.

Review your goals weekly, some will change, others may already have been achieved and don’t be disheartened if you don’t achieve all of your goals or take longer than expected with some. Show initiative, have the courage to be open and reflect on these difficulties, which you could even reflect on for a future assignment/CPD folder fodder and reap the rewards of your own self-critique… But of course I wouldn’t be speaking from experience on that one! In summary, always look to your goals for motivation, use study time to analyse these and plan what you can do to achieve these. It’s an admirable quality in any student and will certainly impress your mentors and serve you well into your career.

10) Don’t worry! You are a student after all.

As a student you are being marked and assessed from the word go. Try to relax about this and remember everyone is there to help and guide your learning not get in the way of it. Mistakes are normal, just ensure you are working within your scope of practice and not putting yourself or others at risk. Come to your seniors with any issues but also have ideas for solutions so they can be looked upon positively. People will have good days and bad within the MDT so don’t take this too personally just be yourself and relax into normal everyday work and discuss your issues within the team as appropriate. You are there to learn and develop not to be the ‘perfect physio’ (who probably doesn’t exist anyway) so enjoy yourself and don’t heap tonnes of pressure onto yourself!

11) Make opportunities and say YES to everything.

Going into lots of different environments and specialities has to be one of the most exciting and fortunate aspects of being on placement. So say YES to everything! Think about shadowing those ESPs, leading classes or observing surgery related to your practice. Don’t forget the MDT too, it’s a great opportunity to see what they do and what treatments they offer. Building your knowledge is good for self development and handy for answering patient’s questions! You can never bug too many people and you will be surprised how many opportunities you can create for yourself. Be assertive and respectful and see how many doors you can open for yourself.


Matthew Murray-Downing






Patellofemoral pain: management

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More useful stuff from Lee Herrington’s (@leehphysio) talk at Northumbria Uni last night!

Patellofemoral pain rehab!

1) Find out what they can do with minimal symptoms so you’re not flaring it up, but don’t deload completely or you’re giving yourself more work to do later!

2) Improve blood flow. Even just a pedaling machine is good for this.

3) Tape, brace or give orthotics if necessary as a *temporary* way to change the loading on the joint and then…

Strengthen quads (but forget about isolating VMO please!)

And get glutes going! (but not with those weird side lying abduction things)

Pretty simple really: as @GregLehman says, calm shit down, build shit back up 🙂

(Oh and there’s a TPMP podcast with Lee here:


Patellofemoral pain: diagnosis

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Good slide from Lee Herrington’s (@leehphysio) talk at Northumbria Uni last night.

Spotting patellofemoral pain!

Why would PFP present as *posterior* knee pain? According to Lee, it’s because the “homunculus” in your brain has a very small representation for the knee. So the brain isn’t too good at localizing pain in this area.

Another interesting point was that it might not be quite right to reassure patients that their clicky knees aren’t a big deal! If someone has severe crepitus in their knee on a motion palpation test, that’s a pretty good sign (specific) they have cartilage damage, although it won’t pick up everyone (it isn’t sensitive).

But, if the crepitus is only mild or moderate, it’s not such a good test. Here’s the paper:…/fulltext…/6F6322D4F2E6426FPQ/1…

(Oh and there’s a TPMP podcast with Lee here:


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