The physiotherapy undergraduate curriculum : a case for professional development.
This study focuses on physiotherapy professional development and professional education and the multitude of theoretical, practical and political forces that shape and influence physiotherapy education. It does so by addressing the questions: how is an undergraduate physiotherapy curriculum within a historically disadvantaged university responding to post apartheid societal transformation in South Africa; and why is the curriculum responding in the way that it is within the current social, economic, political, cultural and historical context of South Africa. The study is theoretically and methodically located within critical, feminist and post-modern framings that disturb and disrupt the dominant medical model of health sciences practice. Employing narrative inquiry as the selected methodology, data was produced through multiple methods to obtain multiple perspectives and orientations. This multi-sectoral data production approach involving student physiotherapists, physiotherapy academics and practicing physiotherapists included in-depth focus group interviews, individual interviews, life-history biographies and open-ended questionnaires. The data is analysed firstly separately for each group of research participants - physiotherapy students, practitioners and academics, and then followed by a cross-sector analysis. The analysis illustrated current disciplinary trends and shortcomings of the physiotherapy undergraduate curriculum, whilst highlighting that which is considered valuable and progressive in physiotherapy and health care. The dominant themes that emerged included issues relating to physiotherapy theory and practice, and issues that influenced the construction of relationships in the curriculum. The main thesis presented is that for physiotherapy in the South African context, the notion of caring is identified as the link between transformation and professional development. The model proposed is: A Caring-Transformative Physiotherapy Practitioner Model for physiotherapy professional development advancing a view of what it could mean to be an agent of transformation in South Africa within the health care system. This model is located within multiple framings of caring that re-casts the physiotherapy professional previously located primarily within a medical model ideology, into a practitioner with a broadened view of practice and professional accountability within a critical-feminist framing.