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“Private practice Work Integrated Learning (WIL) opportunities for health professional students: Increasing capacity for educational quality and equity”

Early Career Research Grant 2020

Roma Forbes, University of Queensland

The WIL in Private Practice (WILPP) project uses a three-part mixed methods approach to investigate, explore and articulate strategies which are currently used to successfully integrate student health professional WIL into private practice service delivery. This project scaffolds on previous industry partnered ACEN projects to create a sector-wide resource to enhance WIL capacity through providing practical solutions to student service delivery for new and existing WIL providers.

Themes: Designing and implementing quality in WIL, Equity of access to WIL

ACEN project update to address capacity of health professional WIL in the private practice sector

April 2021 Update

The team consists of academics and clinical education liaison managers at The University of Queensland. 

What is the problem? 

Reports suggest that as little as 5-15% of health WIL placements occur within private practices and the lack of such opportunities has led to consistent reports from health professions that new graduates are unprepared for work within this sector. This is concerning as private practices employ over 50% of some Australian health professional groups whereas hospitals employ as little as 15%1. Of particular concern, students interested in the private practice sector have been reportedly advised to supplement their education with experiences outside of their formal program, leading to concerns regarding educational equity2. Increasing WIL placements within the private practice sector would have several important effects. Increased WIL placements would relieve pressure on current placement shortages and also assist students in preparation for the work specific to this sector to create equity in learning opportunities and better match workforce needs.

What is our project doing? 

Our WIL in Private Practice (WILPP) project is aimed to investigate, explore and articulate strategies which are currently used to successfully integrate student health professional WIL into private practice service delivery. 

An update on progress

The project so far has included over 30 in-depth interviews of purposively selected private practices around Queensland who choose to host, not host, or have previously hosted health professional students. These have explored the benefits and barriers associated with hosting students, and the strategies that practices use to integrate students into their setting and existing service delivery. These interviews have also explored the support and training needs of practices and their staff to be able to successfully engage in WIL. Focus groups with clinical education liaison managers around Australia are being undertaken to help triangulate this data and provide perspectives from education providers. During the remainder of the grant period, the team will be developing sector-wide recommendations via an online repository for health education providers, clinical educators and the private practice sector to enable and promote the inclusion of students into private settings to meet both learning and workforce needs that enable and promote the inclusion of students into core business.

To find out more, please contact project lead Dr Roma Forbes:


  1. Wells C, Olson R, Kent F, Bialocerkowski A, Chipchase L, Scarvell J, Carroll S, and Reubenson A (2017) Are new-graduate physiotherapists ready for private practice? Paper presented at the APA Momentum 2017 Physiotherapy Conference, Sydney.
  2. Health Workforce Australia (2014) Australia’s Health Workforce Series – Physiotherapists in Focus.