Health professional graduate perspectives of practice education during the COVID-19 pandemic

From uncertainty to employability




Practice education, occupational therapy education, physiotherapy education, students, resilience


Introduction: COVID-19 created a need to rapidly adapt practice education placements to minimise the impact on students’ progression to graduation. Physiotherapy and occupational therapy students at one university completed their final practice education placement between April and May 2020, during the period when health care was urgently adapting to the developing pandemic.  

Aim: This study explored the impact of this final placement on new graduates, following their employment. 

Method: 10 students took part in 3 online focus groups to share their experiences and perceptions of the impact on their preparedness for professional practice  

Results: Four themes emerged from the analysis of transcripts including: 1. Coping with uncertainty, 2. Rising to the challenge, 3. Developing skills and competence and 4. Readiness for employment in the “new world” of practice. Overall, the study demonstrates the resilience of students in response to these unusual circumstances. Strategies including peer support, demonstration of learning, and client-centredness increased confidence and the development of professional identity. 

Conclusion: Graduates identified both positive and negative experiences of placement during COVID-19, but overall felt proud that they had demonstrated resilience and developed skills relevant to their current employment as professionals. 

Author Biographies

Yvonne Thomas, Otago Polytechnic

Yvonne Thomas is Professor and Research Coordinator within the School of Occupational Therapy.

Helen Frank, University of Worcester, Deputy Head

Deputy Head for the School of Allied Health and Community and Principal Lecturer in Physiotherapy, University of Worcester

Terri Grant, University of Worcester, Principal Lecturer

Principal Lecturer and MSc Occupational Therapy (Pre-registration) Course Lead, Univerity of Worcester 

Rebecca Lees, University of Worcester, Senior Lecturer

Senior Lecturer Physiotherapy / Practice Education Lead Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy, University of Worcester

Lotoya Neil, University of Worcester, Lecturer

Lecturer in Occupational Therapy (Practice Eduction)


References are included in the main text



How to Cite

Thomas, Y., Frank, H. ., Grant, T., Lees, R., & Neil, L. (2023). Health professional graduate perspectives of practice education during the COVID-19 pandemic: From uncertainty to employability. The Journal of Practice Teaching and Learning.