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Understanding underperformance in a high-stakes clinical-based simulation assessment in physiotherapy: a descriptive analysis

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posted on 2023-10-20, 01:10 authored by Brooke FlewBrooke Flew, B Judd, B Lange, D Lee, Felicity Blackstock, J Tai, K Tognon, L Chipchase
Background: High-stakes assessments are often used as a ‘gate-keeper’ activity for entry into the health professions by ensuring that the minimum core competency thresholds of the profession are met. The aim of the study was to explore if common areas of underperformance existed in international candidates assessed with a high-stakes clinical-based simulation assessment for entry into the physiotherapy profession in Australia. Methods: A retrospective mixed methods analysis of the clinical assessments completed by international candidates over a one-month period in 2021 that were deemed as not meeting competency. The clinical assessments were completed in one of the three practice areas: cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, or neurological rehabilitation. Each assessment was scored by two independent assessors, who discussed the performance and then completed a moderated assessment form. The assessment form used to score competency included seven domains such as initial assessment, effective treatment, communication skills, and risk management. Results: Fifty-one clinical assessments graded as not competent were analysed. Across the practice areas, a high failure rate was found in domains related to interpreting assessment findings and developing a treatment plan. This trend was also observed in the qualitative data, suggesting candidates struggled to meet competency in areas of planning and prioritisation, interpretation and implementation of the information gathered, and selection and evaluation of effective treatment. Conclusion: These findings align with published data on the underperformance of Australian physiotherapy students in clinical placement settings, suggesting these issues are not specific to high stakes assessment of overseas physiotherapists, and that education needs to focus on improving these skills within the profession at all levels. With the identified areas of underperformance aligning with the ability to use higher order thinking and skills integral to clinical reasoning, improvements in the education and implementation of clinical reasoning may be a place to start.


BF was provided funding by the APC to collate and present the data.


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BMC Medical Education



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Springer Nature



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© The Author(s) 2023. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

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