Student placements: the world is your oyster

Kate Mattick

A myriad of career options across clinical, research or managerial settings can be opened up by a career in physiotherapy. This is because, over the last decade, the profession has expanded and developed apace. And, as a taster, student placements can offer valuable and rewarding insights into choosing a career path. They can also be personally enriching.

CSP accreditation of pre-registration courses ensures that students undertake a minimum of 1,000 hours of practice-based learning, giving them an insight into the breadth of the profession. Placements can be found in the UK, or all over the world. So what are the options? And what is the scope of work, preparation and experience needed?  Here’s some expert advice.

Working in a developing country

Physiotherapists and students alike have many reasons for wanting to work abroad. Motives often include a desire to make a difference, skill development and being immersed in new cultures. Opportunities vary from two weeks of volunteering to several years of paid employment, and incorporate a diverse range of projects. There are so many exciting ways to get involved with international work , but it can often feel daunting when it comes to where to start.  

Opportunities abroad may include seeking a student placement as an official elective through your university or a third party, gaining experience during student holidays or working abroad following graduation – as a  volunteer or paid. 

The first port of call in finding a student placement should be your university which may have established links to hospitals and other organisations. Third-party companies can also be used, but more research is needed if you are sourcing placements this way. Ask to be put in touch with previous students for a genuine account of their experience. Also, ensure you choose a specific placement in a well-established site with supervisors used to taking foreign students. 

Work the World and Projects Abroad are well established agencies that can help secure a placement. 

After graduating, keep your university documentation (transcripts and module handbooks). These are often required for future international work. Stay in touch with your personal tutor who could provide a reference.

Once qualified, you are able to practice in most developing countries. If you are volunteering independently it’s your own responsibility to check if any registration, in addition to your Health and Care Professions Council registration, is required. 

Build your skills to strengthen your application and help the effectiveness of international work. Often, getting relevant professional experience first is best. Strong team working, adaptability, problem solving, endless patience and training and language skills are invaluable. 

Research the country where you intend to volunteer and consider culture, customs, climate, security and health. Talk to people who have visited before.

Visit the Students’ Hub for more information and guidance.