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Teaching person-centered practice to pre-registration physiotherapy students: a qualitative study

Killingback, Clare; Tomlinson, Amy; Thompson, Mark; Whitfield, Clare; Stern, Julian


Mark Thompson

Julian Stern


There has been a call for healthcare to consider more explicitly the needs of the individual patient by adopting a person-centered approach to practice. Consideration needs to be given to how this is taught to pre-registration physiotherapy students.
To understand how first-year pre-registration physiotherapy students envision their philosophy of practice and how person-centered aspects of that philosophy might be implemented in a clinical setting.
Semi-structured interviews were carried out with 10 first-year physiotherapy students. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis.
Five themes were identified: 1) understanding the person and their direction of travel; 2) contextual factors that impact on the delivery of person-centered practice; 3) awareness of personality traits; 4) doing the small things; and 5) the person-centered learning curve.
Understanding the person and knowing what is important to them is central to the participant’s philosophy of practice. They drew on specific personality traits such as listening, being patient, or using small talk to develop rapport to better understand the person they were working with. Despite the challenge of high-pressured, under resourced healthcare contexts, student physiotherapists would strive to do the small things for each person they were working with. Practice-based learning settings presented a steep learning curve and appeared to be important in developing person-centered skills which were introduced in the university setting.


Killingback, C., Tomlinson, A., Thompson, M., Whitfield, C., & Stern, J. (in press). Teaching person-centered practice to pre-registration physiotherapy students: a qualitative study. Physiotherapy theory and practice,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 3, 2023
Online Publication Date Jul 17, 2023
Deposit Date Sep 8, 2023
Publicly Available Date Sep 12, 2023
Journal Physiotherapy Theory and Practice
Print ISSN 0959-3985
Electronic ISSN 1532-5040
Publisher Taylor and Francis
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Physiotherapy; Students; Person-centered practice; Pedagogy; Qualitative
Public URL
Additional Information Peer Review Statement: The publishing and review policy for this title is described in its Aims & Scope.; Aim & Scope:; Received: 2023-02-17; Revised: 2023-07-03; Accepted: 2023-07-03; Published: 2023-07-17


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Copyright Statement
© 2023 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way. The terms on which this article has been published allow the posting of the Accepted Manuscript in a repository by the author(s) or with their consent.

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