A QUALITATIVE EXPLORATION OF FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE PHYSIOTHERAPY STUDENT’S PREFERENCES OF LOCATION AND TYPE OF POST-GRADUATION EMPLOYMENT
Objective: There exists an uneven distribution of health professionals in Scotland with a trend favouring employment in metropolitan areas and a sparsity existing in recruiting and retaining those in more remote locations. Students will be the next generation that will supply the workforce and therefore their opinions may provide an insight into why this uneven distribution is occurring in an attempt to combat it. A research gap exists for the physiotherapy student population. Therefore, the aim of this study was to explore factors that influence physiotherapy student preferences for location and type of practice. Methods: Participants (n=16) were final year physiotherapy students from Queen Margaret University (QMU) 4th year undergraduate (BSc) and 2nd year masters (MSc). A qualitative study design was employed. Data collection comprised of three focus groups following a semistructured interview format with the researcher acting as discussion moderator. Transcriptions of the interview were analysed using thematic analysis. Results: Five themes emerged from the analysis that influenced participant’s preferences; 1) Previous exposure to physiotherapy, 2) One’s upbringing, 3) Clinical placement, 4) Job characteristics, 5) Desirable work/life environment. Themes 1, 4 and 5 appeared to influence student’s preference for location, whereas themes 2 and 3 were influencers of the type of physiotherapy practice one had a preference for. These themes were comprised of associated subthemes. Urban practice was the location preferred overall. Clinical placement experiences had the ability to overpower influential factors prior to studying and change one’s preferences for type of physiotherapy practice. Conclusion: A combination of factors influenced one’s preference for post-graduation employment. Influences varied based on individual experiences. Interestingly some of the largest influences were modifiable characteristics which may well be of significance to managers if incentive policies are to be developed to attract more employees to underserviced areas and combat the previously mentioned spatial maldistribution of employment.