Physiotherapy departments in Australian tertiary hospitals regularly participate in and disseminate research results despite a lack of allocated staff: a prospective cross-sectional survey

Physiother Theory Pract. 2015 Mar;31(3):200-6. doi: 10.3109/09593985.2014.982775. Epub 2014 Nov 21.


Objectives: To establish the level of research activity in physiotherapy departments of Australian tertiary hospitals.

Design: Prospective cross-sectional survey.

Participants: Physiotherapy managers from 37 principal referral hospitals and specialist women's and children's hospitals as identified from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2011).

Main outcome measures: A purpose-designed predominantly open-response questionnaire investigating site demographics, research activity and research support was developed, piloted and administered.

Results: Thirty-seven surveys were completed (54% response rate). Median [IQR] respondent equivalent full-time staffing was 23.8 (19-39). Respondents represented a median [IQR] 6.5 (3-20) publication output in the past 2 years. Twelve respondents (32%) reported that staff had completed a doctorate in the past 5 years and 49% of respondents reported no staff had completed higher degrees. A total of 71 grants had been received and 73% of respondents indicated they had no allocated staffing for research activity. The most common indicators of research culture were organization-led research dissemination events and research training (i.e. manager attending research events and celebrating research achievements).

Conclusions: This is the first study to report on research activity in hospital-based Australian physiotherapy departments. Few sites allocate staff to conduct or support research. Despite this, physiotherapy departments regularly publish and present research results. Future studies could investigate how hospital-based physiotherapy departments can optimize research culture and output.

Keywords: Health policy; health service delivery; physiotherapy; research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Biomedical Research* / economics
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Educational Status
  • Humans
  • Physical Therapy Specialty / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Publications / statistics & numerical data
  • Tertiary Care Centers / statistics & numerical data
  • Workforce