Development of real world learning opportunities in community exercise prescription for healthcare professional programmes - ‘Physio Hub’

Cunningham, Caitriona, Blake, Catherine, O Donoghue, Grainne, Purcell, Ciaran, Mc Carthy Persson, Ulrik, Cradock, Karen and Mc Mahon, Sinead (2021) Development of real world learning opportunities in community exercise prescription for healthcare professional programmes - ‘Physio Hub’. BMC Medical Education, 21 (1). ISSN 1472-6920


Abstract Background

Given the challenge of chronic lifestyle diseases, the shift in healthcare focus to primary care and recognised importance of a preventive approach to health, including exercise prescription, the embedding of related learning in healthcare professional programmes is critical.

In response to these contemporary demands, a complex curriculum development project was undertaken at University College Dublin, employing a four dimensional curriculum framework for the development of health professional curricula, that focused on (1) future orientation of healthcare practices (the why?), (2) defining capabilities of graduates (the what?), (3) teaching, learning and assessment (the how?) and (4) organisation/institution delivery (the where)? The process was informed by latest exercise, health promotion, educational and health policy literature, alongside engagement with multiple internal university and external community stakeholders.

Having sufficient clinical education opportunity for translating exercise theory into practice was identified as a key need (the Why?). Development of strategies for health promotion and design and delivery of evidence based exercise programmes with inter-professional and inter-sectoral network building were some of the graduate capabilities identified as being critically important. (the what?) The resultant UCD Physio Hub model of clinical education combines ‘on campus’ and ‘community outreach’ activity to facilitate inter-sectoral ‘real world’ experiential student learning in health promotion and exercise prescription for both healthy and clinical populations. Underpinned by social constructivist educational theory, students are encouraged to be creative and to collaborate in responding to identified health needs of specific community groups by designing and delivering community services. (the how?) In developing new student learning opportunities to enhance curriculum, a supportive organisational culture and context was critical with UCD having excellent exercise infrastructure and the Physio Hub project aligning with a community engagement ethos articulated in the university’s strategy. (the where?)

This paper provides an overview of Physio Hub, its services, educational practices and translational research ethos, all of which are combined to deliver a rich exercise and health promotion learning experience. Although developed for physiotherapy in this instance, the curriculum process and resultant education model could be applied across medical and other health professional programmes and to facilitate interdisciplinary learning.

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