Physiotherapists’ stories about professional development

A professional career may extend over the course of 40 years. Although learning is a feature of professional competence, little is known about learning and development after professional entry education. Narrative inquiry was used to understand how physiotherapists learned and developed over time, and stories from a purposeful sample of 12 physiotherapists were collected. Stories were thematically analyzed regarding key elements related to learning and development, and common themes were identified across stories. Four themes emerged from the analysis where physiotherapists learned and developed in working life: facing challenges; contrasting perspectives; drawing on hundreds of educators; and building on personal experience.

Non-formal ways of learning in working life could help physiotherapists learn and develop confidence, communication strategies and different approaches to treatment. In addition to reflection on personal experience and patient encounters, learning and development could be promoted and supported by taking on challenges and changing settings.