Education is a significant investment for attaining new professionals in to the field of rehabilitation. Physiotherapy students must complete at least three years of higher education before they can work as professional physiotherapists in communities. A bachelor’s degree is a minimum requirement. Important parts of physiotherapist education are theoretical studies and clinical practices in various places such as practical clinics, health care centers, university hospitals or private clinics. Extensive clinical practice experience is important.

Picture: Pixabay

In this blog article we discuss about physiotherapy work and studies. We would like to describe, to the students, a real picture of the work of a physiotherapist, and what studying of physiotherapy requires from them. After that we discuss about physiotherapy education in Europe. Finally, we describe shortly our ongoing research.

Physiotherapy work

Working with people who have been through serious illnesses or injuries can be stressful. Physiotherapists can feel emotional stress while they help clients regain their independence. The rehabilitation process can last a long time and physiotherapists need to push their clients to do hard work to achieve their rehabilitation goals.  Working this way, client after client, can be emotionally draining.

Physiotherapist’ work is also physically demanding. You need to be good physical shape so that you are able to be on your feet during therapy sessions with clients. Your role is to offer support to your clients as they work towards supporting themselves. Sometimes you may be required to lift your client into and out of equipment or help them to stand or sit. Occasionally long working hours increase physical work exertion. Your clients might need more time from you, putting you out of schedule and making you late for your next appointment. Additionally, you need to complete documentation related to your clients’ therapy sessions.  The paperwork can be stressful, too. In addition, physiotherapist needs to maintain knowledge and skills and keep up with the requirements of continuing education.

Physiotherapy studies

Studying is always developmental but at the same time it requires resources. Sometimes tudents can have emotional stress during studies. Stress can be experienced from many things for example, study schedules, clinical practice, work with clients, money, etc. In addition, health and well-being problems may cause anxiety and stress to students

It seems that higher academic stress is positively correlated with poorer study performance (Akgun and Ciarrochi, 2003; Rafidah et al, 2009), which negatively effect on the emotional well-being (Sarid et al., 2003; Bailey and Phillips, 2015).

Moreover, sleeping habits, nutritional routines and physical exercise are three major health-related factors that influence on the academic performance of the students (Rafidah, 2009). These factors may also influence the mental health of the students which may secondarily influence their academic performance. Students may find themselves in a vicious circle where poor sleep leads to worse academic performance which leads to higher level of stress. Higher stress about academic results leads to lower physical activity and inappropriate nutritional habits which together, influence sleep quality and mental health, anew.

Physiotherapy education: now and future

When we consider physiotherapy education, it differs greatly from country to country, continent to continent. Even in European countries we may find many variations. Worldwide, physical therapy training ranges from basic work site education in hospitals through professional bachelor’s or master’s programmes, and even access to postgraduate education differs across Europe (Rasova et al, 2010).

Another variation is found when it comes to the amount of time students must use to successfully graduate and become professional physiotherapists. When we look only in Europe, for example, the University of Milan in Italy has a three-year full-time bachelor’s degree programme implemented by their Faculty of Medicine, as well as Charles University, Prague in the Czech Republic. Instead, The Savonia University of Applied Sciences in Finland has three-and-a-half-year full-time bachelor’s degree programme. On the other hand, in the Ireland and Malta, bachelor’s degree programmes of physiotherapy courses are four years in length. In Ireland clinical practice is done in two last years, whereas in Malta, it is done in the final year. These are most basic differences between the individual European nations. However, if we focused entirely on nation, we may find many other minor differences between national universities and their faculties. These minor differences are for instance, learning styles, attitude to when students should start with clinical practical lessons in the hospitals, etc. Different health systems and polices also have a huge impact on the rehabilitation and physiotherapy approaches and methods that are used.

Our ongoing study

Studying physiotherapy education in Europe – quality of life and quality of education among physiotherapy students  

A descriptive, cross-sectional on-line survey, using convenience sampling is being implemented with aim to provide insight on educational systems internationally, which could be an interesting starting point for the re-evaluation and improvement of the current physiotherapy curriculum in all participant universities.

Picture: Pexels

The questionnaire is devoted to

  1. Student’s quality of life: student’s habits in usual life (sleep quality, nutrition, free time, paid job and physical activity) and subjective feeling on different issues (financial, personal, academic) they considers as stressful) and questions related to the quality of life.
  2. Student’s satisfaction with the quality of education: questions related to the study programme at their university (teaching methods, communication between teachers and students, availability of information, amount of practical and theoretical lessons etc.) and student’s knowledge of specific physical therapy methods (assessment and treatment). Respondents will be asked to choose from the list, whether and how they know each method.
  3. Part 2 and 3 consists of specific questions related to the COVID-19 situation and how it subjectively affected education style. Questions are at the end of each subcategory in part 2, concerning quality of student’s life (level of stress, sleeping habits/sleeping disorders, nutrition habits, paid job and physical activity) and in part 3, quality of the education, only at the end of first subcategory, study environment (how it affected theoretical lectures, number of practical lessons and number of hours spent at the hospitals/rehabilitation center etc., where students see the biggest issue in current situation and if they are afraid of their future final exams results)

Students and teachers exchange, international cooperation and research projects, preparation of master program

The idea is to keep planning and implementing cooperation so that it supports sustainable development, especially the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 3: Good health and well-being, and that it can be implemented regardless of the COVID-19 situation. New ideas regarding virtual exchange and webinars will be used.

We need more international research and development work to support evidence-based teaching and learning in higher education for increased health security which is an integral part of human security


Marja Äijö PT, PhD, Principal Lecturer in Gerontology and Rehabilitation, Savonia University of Applied Sciences
Kamila Řasová, PhDr., Ph.D., Assoc. prof., Department of rehabilitation and Clinic of rheumatology and rehabilitation, Third faculty of medicine, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic


Akgun S & Ciarrochi J. 2003. Learned resourcefulness moderates the relationship between academic stress and academic performance. Educational Psychology, 23(3), 287–294. ISSN: 1469-5820 DOI:10.1080/0144341032000060129
Bailey TH & Phillips LJ. 2015. The influence of motivation and adaptation on students’ subjective well-being, meaning in life and academic performance. Higher Education Research & Development,  8(12). ISSN: 1469-8366, DOI:10.1080/07294360.2015.1087474
Rafidah K, Aris A, Norzaidi M.D, Chong S.C, Salwani M.I & Noraini I. 2009. The impact of perceived stress and stress factors on academic performance of pre-diploma science students: A Malaysian study. International Journal of Scientific Research in Education, 2, 13–26. ISSN: 1117-3259
Rasova K, Freeman J, Cattaneo D, Jonsdottir J, Baert I, Smedal T, et al. 2020. Content and Delivery of Physical Therapy in Multiple Sclerosis across Europe: A Survey. Int J Environ Res Public Health, 17(3)
Sarid O, Anson O, Yaari A & Margalith M. 2004. Academic stress, immunological reaction, and academic performance among students of nursing and physiotherapy. Research of Nursing Health, 27, 370–377. ISSN: DOI:10.1002/nur.20028

Pictures from Pixabay, and Pexels,

Studying physiotherapy education in Europe – quality of life and quality of education among physiotherapy students


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