ABSTRACT

Background: Clinical placements and assessment are an essential part of education to become a health professional. However, quality assessment in a clinical environment is challenging without a clear representation of what constitutes competence. The aim of this study was to establish core clinical learning competencies for Australian exercise physiology students.

Methods: This study used a mixed-methods, multiphase approach. The competencies were developed following electronic surveys and focus groups, with additional refinement provided by the project team. Preliminary validation was conducted via electronic survey where (i) participants rated the importance of each unit of competency for entry-level practice, and (ii) participants who had recently graduated (n = 23) rated the extent to which they perceived they were competent in each unit.

Results: The competencies are described as 19 elements organized into 6 units. The units are (i) communication, (ii) professionalism, (iii) assessment and interpretation, (iv) planning and delivery of an exercise and/or physical activity intervention, (v) lifestyle modification, and (vi) risk management. Of 126 survey participants, the majority (93%–98%) considered each unit as being important for entry-level practice. The majority (78%–95%) of recent graduates considered themselves competent in each unit, suggesting the competencies are articulated around the level of a new practitioner.

Conclusion: The core clinical learning competencies resulted from an extensive, iterative process involving those with expertise in the area. The competencies have a range of applications, including informing the development of a student placement assessment tool for use in a clinical placement environment.

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