Paediatric physiotherapy curriculum: an audit of australian physiotherapy entry-level programs

Karen Mistry, Emi Yonezawa, Nikki Milne*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractResearchpeer-review


No documented standard or core competencies exist for paediatric curriculum in entry-level physiotherapy programs in Australia. Consequently, extensive variability is thought to exist amongst Australian entry-level physiotherapy programs, in teaching methods used and learning outcomes achieved when preparing entry-level physiotherapists to work safely and effectively with children.

The aim of this study was to explore the landscape of paediatric curriculum in Australian entry-level physiotherapy programs by firstly quantifying paediatric-specific learning objectives and assessment items published on university websites, and secondly to identify; i) paediatric curriculum content covered and to what extent; ii) the perceived importance of paediatric content by university academics who teach courses inclusive of paediatric content; iii) the mode of delivery of paediatric curriculum and assessment and; iv) the strengths, weaknesses, barriers and facilitators to the implementation of paediatric curriculum.

A web-based desktop audit was carried out to review the published curriculum and learning objectives for each university’s paediatric curriculum with information found on their website at the time of the audit. After receiving ethical approval from Bond University, Human Research Ethics Committee (RO16162) an online cross-sectional survey was administered via Survey Monkey to universities offering entry-level physiotherapy programs throughout Australia in November of 2017. Closed and open-ended questions were asked to obtain quantitative and qualitative responses. A Likert scale was used to determine level of content coverage and perceived level of importance for content areas. Data were analysed using SPSS version 24. Open-ended responses were thematically analysed to identify key themes for strengths, weaknesses and facilitators to the implementation of paediatric curriculum.

All (n=20, 100%) entry-level programs were noted to use the terms lifespan, child and/or paediatrics somewhere in at least one of their subject descriptors. Forty-five percent (n=9) of the universities did not use the terms lifespan, child or paediatric in their published learning objectives. Eight (40%) universities offered a paediatric stand-alone course. Sixty-five (13/20) percent of universities invited responded to the survey. For paediatric conditions the perceived level of importance was predominately higher than its course content coverage for 19 of the 31 conditions surveyed. Key barriers identified to the implementation of paediatric curriculum were: timetabling challenges, crowded curriculum, lack of prioritisation of paediatric curriculum space, limited financial resources, lack of qualified staff and inadequate paediatric placement availability. Stand-alone paediatric subjects including case-based learning and practical experiences were identified as facilitators to be the most effective method of teaching within the curriculum.

The results of this survey provide the physiotherapy community with the views of paediatric physiotherapy academic educators regarding the content, perceived need to expand content delivery in identified clinical areas, and the barriers and facilitators to implementing paediatric content in Australian entry-level physiotherapy programs.

Findings from this study may help inform the development of minimum standards for paediatric-specific knowledge, skills and attributes to be developed with students in entry-level physiotherapy curriculum in Australia. Further research exploring similar questions with paediatric physiotherapy clinicians would complement the findings of this study.

Keywords: Paediatric, Physiotherapy, Curriculum.

Funding acknowledgements:
No funding was obtained to support this research.

Published version of full manuscript (fully open access) available at:
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - May 2019
EventWorld Confederation for Physical Therapy Congress 2019: WCPT 2019 - Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland
Duration: 10 May 201913 May 2019


ConferenceWorld Confederation for Physical Therapy Congress 2019
Abbreviated titleWCPT2019
Internet address


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