Physiotherapy students’ experiences of bullying on clinical internships: a qualitative study

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Whiteside, Diana ; Stubbs, Brendon ; Soundy, Andy (2014)

Objectives: To consider the experiences of final-year physiotherapy students who have experienced workplace bullying on a clinical internship.\ud \ud Design: Qualitative methodology using individual semi-structured interviews.\ud \ud Setting: A university in the Midlands region of the UK.\ud \ud Participants: Eight undergraduate physiotherapy students who had experienced one incident of bullying on a clinical internship.\ud \ud Main outcome measures: Thematic analysis of semi-structured interviews.\ud \ud Results: Four main themes were identified: (1) external and situational influences of bullying; (2) students’ reactions to the experience of bullying; (3) inability to reveal the experience; and (4) overcoming problems. Bullying had a range of adverse effects on the students, with many expressing self-doubt in their competence and viewing their supervisor as unapproachable and unsupportive. Five students were not initially able to recognise the experience as bullying. In addition, students did not feel able to report the experience and use the support mechanisms in place. This may have been a result of having concerns that the problem would escalate if they reported the experience and, as a consequence, have a negative effect on their grade. Students were keen to offer a range of strategies for clinical practice in order to prevent bullying for future generations of students.\ud \ud Conclusions: Students’ health, security and confidence in their ability as a physiotherapist can be at great risk from bullying. Steps are needed to ensure that students are better protected from bullying, and feel more able to address bullying behaviour during clinical internships.
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