The Big struggle on a block

Professionalism and ethics allows for a better interaction and experience among others.  Every person has their own idea and understanding of ethics and professionalism, yet there is a general set of standards a person needs, to uphold their professional position. Professionalism is the way you act, speak and behave. As a Physiotherapy student, there are certain skills required when treating a patient. Likewise, physiotherapy clinicians need to possess characteristics that need to be portrayed in order to mold the students into professional beings. Important characteristics needed by both clinician and student include respect for each other and peers, consistent and effective communication between students and clinician  as well as the ability to approach one another comfortably. Professionalism allows for a better interaction and working experience amongst others. According to Trede (2012) when physiotherapy students were questioned on professionalism, it was said that they could only query and reflect on issues as much as their work-integrated learning supervisors would allow.

In my 3rd year of clinical rotations, I struggled to cope in my last block which consisted of all the specialties. In one of my experiences I failed to acquire the relevant information on orthopaedics. It was with regards to a patient’s condition before mobilisation. I do admit I was careless and in the wrong. My reason for not communicating effectively with my clinician was due to her scary and intimidating demeanour. When I would ask a question, she would make me feel inadequate by responding with, “You should know, you were taught this”. During this particular incident, the clinician scolded me in the Physiotherapy department in front of my peers, students from another University, the Head of the department and another qualified physiotherapist. I immediately apologised to her for my mistake, yet she continued to belittle me. She reprimanded me as if she were disciplining a 2 year old child and not an adult.  This incident was completely humiliating and I was devastated.

It was not a good experience for me. After that, the block became miserable and I became more afraid of the clinician. It negatively affected my ability to gain the best knowledge I possibly could from the block. Similarly, it was  found that medical students received a disproportionate amount of their training in professional values from the supervisors and that those values were often in direct conflict with those taught by the university (Shrank, Reed, & Jernstedt, 2004). I felt the way the clinician handled the situation was unethical and unprofessional. “Professionalism needs to be seen as a responsibility to make judgments and decisions in the context of practice” (Trede, 2012). The clinician could have taken me aside in private and address the issue in a calm and adult-like manner. A concept of professional identity is the power of dialogue between yourself and the other. Good practice requires responsible practitioners who are aware of themselves and of others, so they can make appropriate situated decisions and can see great possibilities. (Trede, 2012)

 It is important for a professional in higher authority to remember that if they set a good example, it will allow people below them to learn and mimic their ways. This will avoid situations going south and bad reputations from forming. It was suggested in (Shrank, Reed, & Jernstedt, 2004) that both formal teaching and role modelling are important to the development of professional values. In order for a clinician to effectively sculpt attitudes and attributes for students, they must hold these same characteristics and values for themselves (Shrank, Reed, & Jernstedt, 2004).  Physiotherapy, like other health professions and activities, demands research for greater ethical awareness (Anderson & Pickering, 2008).


Anderson, L., & Pickering, N. (2008). Ethical review of physiotherapy research. NZ Journal of Physiotherapy, 138-143.

Shrank, W., Reed, V., & Jernstedt, C. (2004). Fostering Professionalism in Medical Education. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 887-892.

Trede, F. (2012). Role of work-integrated learning in developing professionalism and professional identity. Asia-Pacific Journal of Cooperative Education, 159-167.


5 Replies to “The Big struggle on a block”

  1. Hi there 🙂

    I read this post and I immediately thought of my experience last year during my 3rd year clinical rotation. My clinician also scolded me in front of other staff members and 2 of my peers during our second week at the placement. As I was scared of her, I apologized even though I did not do anything wrong. The remaining 3 weeks of block, were the worst 3 weeks of my live.

    Whenever I had questions or whenever I was uncertain about anything, I would ask the other physiotherapist that was working there and not my clinician. This resulted in my clinician thinking I was uninterested and I thought I knew everything. My fear of her resulted in me not asking her anything, only doing was I was supposed to do; give her feedback on all my patients.

    I know this influenced my learning and if I stood up for myself and told her how I felt things would possibly have gotten better or worse. Now I’ll never know.

    I think you wrote this post well as I was intrigued and I could relate to this post. I have a suggestion that you could use in future writing, when you state what literature says about clinicians or students try to link it with your personal experience and reflect on whether you agree or disagree with the literature.

    As you stated that in order for a clinician to effectively sculpt attitudes and attributes for students, they must hold these same characteristics and values for themselves (Shrank, Reed, & Jernstedt, 2004). I agree with this statement as I believe clinicians should practice what they preach and the should reflect on their behaviour as well and not only blame the students for everything.

    I hope in future instances both of us can stand up for ourselves and it may or may not change the situation.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi there

    I enjoyed reading your post. I think there are many students that had similar experiences during blocks and can thus relate to how you felt. My thought however is that it is unlikely for you to be able to change the behaviour of the clinician. In the future the chances of having a similar experience to the one you had is quite good. Is there any way that you will change how you handled the situation? Or maybe just the way you approach similar clinicians in the future?

    Kind regards
    BSc Physiotherapy IV UWC


  3. Hi there
    I enjoyed this post, reading this post took me back to a block I had last year. In a similar situation where myself and a fellow student were spoke down on constantly. Expanding on what Wihan has commented, it is unlikely that you can change the practice of someone else, yes you can point out their faults from your point of view but to them this may be ‘professional’. If you are brave enough you can voice your thoughts across to them in a ‘professional’ manner, but will this really change their practice? I’ve used my past experiences as a learning tool. I look at each block as a new experience with a completely new clinician. My past block was a great experience with an excellent clinician. I took advantage of this and learnt as much as I possible could. I am interested if this experience has tarnished your view on all clinicians? And how this has changed the way you go about your learning on block?
    Kind regards

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Luke. I like the question about whether this experience has changed the experience of all blocks, or whether it’s possible to move onto something else as a new experience. It’s always terrible to see the negative influence on students’ learning experiences when the clinician responds to challenges in this way.


  4. Hello
    I really enjoyed your post.
    We can all definitely relate to your experience in some kind of way. It is not an easy thing being a student and most clinicians will make life hell for us.
    However, I have come to realise that people will only do to us what we allow. It is so easy to give into the abuse but what we forget is that we have the right to our education. We are not on clinical placement to help the hospital with staffing but to learn. We are responsible for that learning. So do we continue being push overs, or do we start standing up for our learning?


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