Background: Clinical placements are invaluable for preparing students for their professional role and assisting the transition to practice. In order to thrive, it is the responsibility of universities to ensure students are prepared. The aim of this study was to examine the student response to learning within a university clinic-as-classroom educational program, for building self-perceived confidence to perform the competencies of clinical exercise physiology practice, prior to their first clinical placement. A secondary aim was to identify any learning areas that required further emphasis within the curriculum.
Methods: This study was a prospective cohort study, assessing the change in confidence of 80 final year exercise physiology students to perform the competency of practice.
Results: The study achieved an 87% response rate. Baseline data indicated students were confident to behave professionally, be reflective, work in teams, adapt to practice setting, ensure a safe exercise environment, and manage personal risk. Across the clinic-as-classroom program students reported a significant growth in confidence in 4 elements of competency: communication of data; placing the clinical exercise physiologist's role in the wider healthcare context; designing client centered exercise interventions; and integrating pathology into the program planning and delivery.
Conclusion: The clinic-as-classroom educational program allowed novice students to become increasingly confident in the clinical environment in a low-risk, authentic, and supportive learning environment. A key recommendation was to embed the additional elements of clinical exercise physiology practice across the course and clinic-as-classroom curriculum to increase student preparedness for placement.