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Competencies for entry-level rural and remote physiotherapy practice: a Delphi approach


Martin, R and Mandrusiak, A and Lu, A and Forbes, R, Competencies for entry-level rural and remote physiotherapy practice: a Delphi approach, Rural and Remote Health, 21, (4) ISSN 1445-6354 (2021) [Refereed Article]

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James Cook University. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence (

DOI: doi:10.22605/RRH6471


Introduction: Rural physiotherapy is a challenging area of practice that requires clinicians to respond to the unique factors that contribute to rurality. This study aimed to outline an introductory set of competencies that contribute to effective physiotherapy practice in rural Australia.

Methods: A three-round Delphi study was undertaken using a panel of expert physiotherapists. The panel was asked to provide open-ended responses to the following question: 'What unique knowledge, skills, abilities, attributes or other characteristics do physiotherapists need to possess, or learn in order to provide effective physiotherapy specifically in a rural or remote setting?' These responses were then thematically analysed to create competencies. The competencies were evaluated in the subsequent rounds by the Delphi panel. Consensus was set at 80%. Rural and remote experts were determined through criteria including duration of practice, established expert frameworks, and self- or peer nomination. The publicly accessible Australian Physiotherapy Association database was used to access the contact details of 222 physiotherapists working in rural and remote locations across all Australian states and territories. Seventeen expert physiotherapists met inclusion criteria and consented to participation.

Results: Seventeen expert physiotherapists completed round one with a 100% response rate. Analysis of the expert panel responses yielded an initial 24 competencies. The second round had a response rate of 94.1%, and the third round 93.8%. A final set of 19 competencies was established. The knowledge, skills and attributes featured in the competencies relate to responsivity to rural locality, adapting to individual community needs and problem solving in response to challenges to practising in rural and remote locations.

Conclusion: This study has introduced a set of competencies that may contribute towards effective physiotherapy practice in the rural setting. The competencies provide a common language for physiotherapists and their employers, and may be used to guide training or mentorship in this setting.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:allied health, Australia, competencies, Delphi, education, entry-level practice, physiotherapy, pre-professional training, qualitative.
Research Division:Health Sciences
Research Group:Allied health and rehabilitation science
Research Field:Physiotherapy
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Specific population health (excl. Indigenous health)
Objective Field:Rural and remote area health
UTAS Author:Martin, R (Ms Romany Martin)
ID Code:148224
Year Published:2021
Web of Science® Times Cited:1
Deposited By:Health Sciences
Deposited On:2021-12-13
Last Modified:2022-01-17
Downloads:6 View Download Statistics

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