BACKGROUND: Early graduate occupational therapists (OTs) and physiotherapists (PTs) are routinely employed in work injury management and prevention in Australia. However, our understanding is limited about employer requirements for early graduates entering the field, and how commencing practitioners manage transition to practice. In addition, employers have expressed concerns anecdotally about the preparedness of early graduates for work injury management and prevention. However, evidence is limited about early gradutate preparedness for the field.
OBJECTIVES: The study aimed to develop a detailed qualitative account of the perceptions of employers and early graduates on the attributes required of early graduates in work injury management and prevention, and processes for effective transition to practice in this field.
METHOD: A purposive sample of 12 employers and 12 early graduates in work injury management and prevention participated in semi-structured interviews. Questions to employers focused on recruitment, supervision and readiness for practice. Questions to early graduates focused on challenges in transition and effective learning methods. Transcripts were analysed by Leximancer™ and supported by manual coding and synthesis.
RESULTS: Four themes with findings were, 1) 'Job and workplace requirements'; skills required by employers and support needed for early graduates, 2) 'Learning for work injury management and prevention'; options for early graduate development and learning methods early graduates found effective, 3) 'Employer expectations of early graduates in transition to work injury management and prevention', responses to transition; and 4) 'Early graduate perceptions on transition to work injury management and prevention'; early graduates responses to transition.
CONCLUSION: Findings for employers and early graduates were similar to those expected in other areas of practice for OTs and PTs. Work injury management and prevention skills were not expected of early graduates by employers. Employers and early graduates shared similar views that clinical education in work injury management and prevention was useful to early graduates entering this field. Physiotherapy employers considered PT early graduates not yet ready for work injury management and prevention.