Physiotherapy Leadership in Academia – The Current Situation

Dr Marc Griffiths and Dr Vivien Gibbs, both from the University of The West of England, were the lead researchers for this report which was commissioned by Health Education England.

There is a general feeling that proportionally there are more nurses working in senior academic leadership roles than AHPs (of which physiotherapy is a part). This has been particularly noted in positions which influence governance, policy and decision making and this means AHP knowledge is underutilized. Therefore this research project was commissioned to explore and begin to understand the reasons why this may be the case and to begin to identify opportunities for change.

As this is a complex topic involving different relationships and situations a Constructivist Grounded Theory approach was taken involving semi-structured interviews. The results from the interviews were collected and  thematic analysis was used to establish themes and codes. The exact details of the methodology and sampling is appropriately described in the report.

5 themes were identified from the interviews and can broadly be described as the headings below. These are abbreviated for the purpose of this post but are more detailed and thorough in the study.

  1. Lack of role models and mentorship for AHPs seeking Senior Academic Positions
  2. Clinical specialism is seen as  a priority
  3. Traditional legislation leads to nursing dominance
  4. The professional bodies within the AHP family have a protectionist approach
  5. HEIs fail to see the relevance of formal healthcare education

Recommendations based on these themes have been created for; the higher education sector, AHP professional bodies and HEE. The most relevant of these for clinicians or readers of this who are interested in academic leadership include:

  • Establishing leadership programmes for AHPs in education,
  • The creation of an advanced educator programme within higher education instituations.
  • Facilitation of clinical-academic pathways
  • Promotion of equal opportunities

Clearly all of this will take some time to change and come into effect but it is definitely a step in the right direction. To help developments progress along social media, and local networking groups are definitely the right tools to use in this context.

Read The Report