Does Ethnicity, Gender or Age of Physiotherapy Students Affect Performance in the Final Clinical Placements? An Exploratory Study

Physiotherapy. 2014 Mar;100(1):9-13. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2013 Aug 14.


Objectives: To explore demographic differences in awarded marks of the final clinical placement in a physiotherapy undergraduate programme.

Design: Retrospective analysis of clinical placement assessment marks.

Setting: A London university offering clinical placements throughout South East England.

Participants: 333 physiotherapy students entering physiotherapy training between 2005 to 2009.

Main outcome measures: Marks awarded following assessment using a clinical placement assessment form.

Results: The mean mark (SD) for age were standard entry 71 (7.4) vs. mature entry 72 (7.99) (ns); for gender male 72 (8.45) vs. female 71 (7.21) (ns); and ethnicity White British 72 (7.71) vs. ethnic minority 70 (7.01) (p=0.023). No interaction effects were observed between the independent variables and only ethnicity demonstrated a statistically significant effect (mean difference (MD) 2.4% 95%CI 0.5 to 4.3, F=5.24, p=0.023). This difference was maintained in most subcategories. Significant differences were observed for the interpersonal section (MD 2.21% 95%CI 0.14 to 4.28, F=4.409, p=0.03), the clinical reasoning section (MD 2.39% 95%CI 0.53 to 4.25, F=6.37, p=0.012) and the treatment section (MD 2.93 95%CI 1.10 to 4.83, F=9.198, p=0.003).

Conclusions: Physiotherapy students from minority ethnic backgrounds were awarded a significantly lower mark than their white majority peers in final clinical placements, although the difference was small. Potential reasons are considered, with the strongest recommendation being for further enquiry into the potential relationship between ethnicity and success in undergraduate physiotherapy education.

Keywords: Age; Clinical placements; Education; Ethnicity; Gender; Physiotherapy.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Educational Measurement / statistics & numerical data*
  • England
  • Ethnic Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Therapy Specialty / statistics & numerical data*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Factors
  • Students / statistics & numerical data*