Roles and attributes of physiotherapy clinical educators: Is there agreement between educators and students?

Dawn Verna Ernstzen


Objectives. To determine which roles and attributes of clinical educators are perceived as important in creating a clinical learning environment that is conducive to learning, and if there were differences between the perceptions of undergraduate physiotherapy students and clinical educators. 

Design. A cross-sectional survey in the form of a purpose-built questionnaire was conducted among physiotherapy students and clinical educators. 

Setting. The study was performed at the Division of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, South Africa. 

Participants. All enrolled undergraduate physiotherapy students (n=80) with clinical experience, and all clinical educators (n=37) involved in the delivery of clinical education were invited to participate. 

Results. The educator roles that strongly influence the clinical learning environment were found to be those of technique demonstrator, mentor, assessor, knowledge provider and facilitator of learning. Educators’ and students’ views about the role of the educator as role model, reflector, knowledge provider and technique demonstrator differed. Participants agreed that the attributes of the clinical educator that are conducive to learning are approachability, recognising student abilities, and good communication skills. 

Conclusion. The clinical educator is pivotal in the success of the physiotherapy clinical education programme. The study found similarities and differences about the role perceptions of educators and students. The differences might influence the learning experience, and it is recommended that expectations be clarified at the start of the clinical education programme.

Author's affiliations

Dawn Verna Ernstzen, Division of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Tygerberg, South Africa

Full Text



Clinical education; Roles of clinical educators

Cite this article

African Journal of Health Professions Education 2013;5(2):91-94. DOI:10.7196/AJHPE.252

Article History

Date submitted: 2013-02-28
Date published: 2013-10-28

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