Opinions of South African physiotherapists on gross anatomy education for physiotherapy students

Document Type



Brain and Mind Institute


Background: Physiotherapists know the depth of gross anatomical knowledge required for safe and effective clinical practice. They can offer insightful opinions on inclusions for and teaching of an anatomy curriculum for physiotherapy students.

Objectives: The aim of this study was to gather opinions of physiotherapists as to what they perceive as necessary anatomy curricular content for undergraduate physiotherapy students and identify pedagogy that should be used.

Method: A qualitative methodology using a grounded theory approach incorporating semi-structured interviews was utilised in this study. Theoretical sampling was used to identify representative South African physiotherapists. An inductive process, using continuous manual analysis of data by two independent coders, was undertaken. Data were collapsed until themes were identified. Triangulation and other strategies for trustworthiness of data were instituted.

Results: Theoretical saturation was reached after five focus groups (n = 32). Demographical information indicated physiotherapists of all age groups and both genders working in diversified clinical areas. Seven themes were identified and incorporated information from ‘structure’, ‘content’ and ‘pedagogy’ for anatomy programmes to the psychological impact of course aspects on a student’s psyche. Vertical integration of anatomy into later preclinical years, incorporation of physiotherapists to teach anatomy, a ‘physiotherapist personality’ and ‘anatomy know how’ for clinical practice were included.

Conclusion: Opinions of physiotherapists are important in identifying curricular and teaching considerations that can be incorporated into an anatomy programme designed for physiotherapy students.

Clinical implications: Targeted anatomy education for physiotherapy students can aid learning and retention of anatomical knowledge necessary for effective and safe clinical practice.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.


South African Journal of Physiotherapy