Reflections of physiotherapy students in the United Arab Emirates during their clinical placements: A qualitative study
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BACKGROUND: Although Western models of education are being used to establish health professional programs in non-Western countries, little is known about how students in these countries perceive their learning experiences. The purpose of this qualitative study was to describe the reflections of physiotherapy students from a Middle East culture during their clinical placements and to compare them to reflections of physiotherapy students from a Western culture. METHODS: Subjects were six senior students (3 females, 3 males, mean age 22.6 years) and 15 junior, female students (mean age 20.1 years) in the baccalaureate physiotherapy program at a university in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). They wrote weekly entries in a journal while in their clinical placements. They described an event, their reaction to it, and how it might affect their future behavior. Two evaluators independently read and coded the content of all the journals, and then worked together to categorize the data and develop themes. A third evaluator, an UAE national, independently read the journals to validate the content analysis. A feedback session with students was used to further validate the data interpretation. The themes were compared to those derived from a similar study of Canadian physiotherapy students. RESULTS: The content of the students' reflections were grouped into 4 themes: professional behavior, awareness of learning, self-development and shift to a patient orientation, and identification and analysis of ethical issues. Although the events were different, students from the UAE considered many of the same issues reflected on by Canadian students. CONCLUSION: Physiotherapy students from a Middle East culture consider many of the same issues as students from a Western culture when asked to reflect on their clinical experience. They reflect on their personal growth, on how they learn in a clinical setting, and on the ethical and professional behaviors of themselves and others.