The Masters of Science (Physiotherapy) Program offered at McMaster University is a 25 month full time, entry to practice program. This program utilizes problem-based, small group, self-directed learning.
The MSc(PT) Program is committed to providing an educational opportunity for its students, which is excellent, innovative and consistent with the mission of the Faculty of Health Sciences. With an emphasis on problem-based, small group, self-directed learning, and integrated academic and clinical education, the program provides professional and interprofessional educational opportunities in partnership with the community and university at large.
The MSc(PT) Program strives to prepare physiotherapists to be caring and reflective practitioners who are clinical scholars with the ability to provide client-centred, effective and efficient health care, to critically evaluate the scientific basis of practice, to adapt to and initiate change, to collaborate within interprofessional teams, and to become lifelong learners.
The global goal is to prepare students to practice in a variety of roles and diverse practice environments. As clinical scholars, students will exemplify mindful, ethical practice and apply their knowledge and skills in an evidence-based way to clients, patients, systems and organizations.
To achieve this, the education process focuses on:
Knowledge related to:
Skills related to competency in:
Professional Behaviours related to acting ethically and responsively:
The Master of Science (PT) prepares students in their eligibility to be registered practicing physiotherapists in Canada. This program meets Canadian professional accreditation and practice standards.
Our curriculum is developed and modified by faculty who keep themselves appraised of changing trends in health care and physiotherapy practice overall. The faculty are acutely aware of the current and evolving roles of physiotherapists. Physiotherapists are working in increasingly complex sectors which require an advanced skill set. New graduates need to be autonomous primary health care practitioners able to design new programs, develop proposals, evaluate outcomes and supervise others in order to provide the best interventions to the clients who we serve. There is a greater emphasis on independent, evidence-based practice which requires physiotherapists to have critical appraisal skills and additional preparation in research methods.
The curriculum is based on the principles of problem-based, small group, and self-directed learning. Units are 14 weeks in duration. The program includes five-6 week clinical placements following Units 2 through 6 academics. Clinical placements occur in multiple settings (i.e. acute/hospital, community, rehabilitation, role emerging) and various practice areas (i.e. musculoskeletal, neurological, cardiorespiratory).
Unit 1 - Fundamentals of Physiotherapy Practice
This Unit focuses on the fundamental knowledge and skills of clinical practice. The emphasis is on acquiring knowledge and basic clinical skills related to musculoskeletal practice. Fundamental skills related to cardiorespiratory practice and neurological practice are also introduced. The musculoskeletal focus is on assessment and treatment of the upper quadrant.
Unit 2 - Fundamentals of Musculoskeletal Practice
In this Unit there is a major emphasis on musculoskeletal assessment and treatment of the lower quadrant. Following Unit 2 the clinical practice placement can be in a community, hospital or rehabilitation setting.
Unit 3 - Fundamentals of Cardiorespiratory and Neurological Physiotherapy
This Unit emphasizes the assessment and treatment of patients and clients with cardiorespiratory problems. In addition it provides an introduction to neurological practice focusing on individuals with spinal cord injuries and stroke. Following Unit 3 students will complete their placement which may be in a community, hospital, rehabilitation, or role emerging setting.
Unit 4 - Advanced Neurological Physiotherapy Practice
This Unit emphasizes the assessment and the development and implementation of interventions for clients with neurological problems across the lifespan. Following Unit 4 students will complete a clinical practice placement which may be in a community, hospital, rehabilitation, or role emerging setting.
Unit 5 - Community Health / Community Practice
This Unit provides students with the skills to assume current and emergent health care roles in the community with an emphasis on educational and consultation skills. There will be a focus on the integration of health promotion and disease prevention concepts to promote physical activity and movement in all age groups for persons with and without disability. These concepts will be applied to conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis and coronary heart disease. Students will complete their clinical placements which may be in a community, hospital, rehabilitation, or role emerging setting.
Unit 6 - Integrated Practice and Professional Transition
This Unit will focus on assessment and management of clients with complex, multisystem health problems for example, burns, palliative care, multisystem failure and work related injuries. This Unit also provides the opportunity for students to focus on topical professional issues as they prepare for their transition to professional practice. Following the academic component of the Unit, students will complete a clinical placement in a community, hospital, rehabilitation, or role emerging setting.
Clinical education is an essential part of the PT Program Curriculum because it provides students with the opportunity to apply knowledge they have acquired in the academic setting. Students gain practical experience in clinical settings interacting with clients while being supervised by clinical instructors who are registered physiotherapists.
During the two year PT Program, students will have the opportunity to do placements within McMaster’s catchment area that may include a variety of health care facilities including teaching hospitals, community hospitals, health care agencies, specialized centres, private clinics, and other community facilities. Students may also have the chance to request placements outside of McMaster’s catchment area, to undertake an international placement in their final year, and participate in the Northern Studies Stream.
Although placements are limited and subject to availability, student preferences are taken into consideration where possible.
During clinical practica, students may be required to attend evening and weekend hours. Whenever possible, students will know in advance if evening and/or weekend hours are required. It is students' responsibility to meet the requirements for clinical practica hours in order to meet the degree requirements of their respective programs.
Clinical placements are organized by the Director of Clinical Education (DCE) and the opportunities occur within a broad range and scope of settings. Every university has their own geographical catchment area from which they obtain placements and McMaster’s catchment area allows student to gain valuable clinical experience in both urban and rural areas.
Students are expected to travel outside of Hamilton, Ontario for mandatory teaching sessions and clinical placements. Students are responsible for their own transportation and associated costs in order to complete program requirements. Some placements may be located in rural, under-serviced and remote areas. In certain placement streams, there may be some external funding available.
The McMaster catchment area extends to:
Students can expect to complete placements within the above designated area. There may be opportunities to complete placements in other areas of Canada.
Students may also have the opportunity of completing an international placement in their final term of study.
Placements are limited and subject to availability. Many factors influence the matching of students to the available clinical placement offers. Although student preferences may be solicited, the best match will be determined by the Director of Clinical Education who must take the needs of the program, community partners, current and future students into account.
PBT = Problem-Based Tutorials
CL = Clinical Laboratory
PTPrac = Foundational Knowledge for the Physiotherapy Practitioner
REBP = Research & Evidence Based Practice
PrT = Professional Transition
Description of Courses
PROBLEM-BASED TUTORIALS (PBT)
Small group learning (6 to 8 people)
Learning based on real-life clinical scenarios
Student driven learning process
CLINICAL LABORATORY (CL)
Large and small group learning
Faculty and clinician facilitated
small and large group discussion
skill development and demonstration
practical hands on sessions
PTPrac, REBP, PrT
Small group activities
Large group discussions
RESEARCH EXPERIENCE (REBP)
Small group research opportunity in second year of study
Faculty members or clinicians from community act as supervisors
Opportunity to do research with students, faculty, or clinicians from other health care disciplines.
Clinical experience in a variety of health care environments supervised by regulated health care professionals
The MSc (PT) program utilizes a problem-based, self-directed learning philosophy. An overall goal is to exercise the student's capacity to think and discover during the process of gaining knowledge. Our program is designed to guide, stimulate, and challenge students in order to produce professionals who will make a difference in practice.
Self-directed learning (SDL) is a component of life-long learning, which is now a clear expectation for all physiotherapists as practitioners within a regulated health profession. Self-directed learning provides students with the essential skills needed to work within changing practice contexts.
Within the framework provided by the goals and objectives of the Physiotherapy Program, students should be able to determine their own learning goals, how best to achieve their objectives, how to select learning resources, and how to measure their own progress. Faculty facilitate learning by asking questions, stimulating critical thinking, challenging the students' point of view, providing feedback, and evaluating student performance.
Problem-based learning (PBL), as a conceptual framework, contends that knowledge is best remembered in the context in which it is learned, and that acquisition and integration of new knowledge requires activation of prior knowledge. In contrast to the common approach of using a problem for application after learning has taken place, problem-based learning requires that the learner encounter a problem first as the initial stimulus for learning. The learner thus becomes actively involved in the learning process, can shape it to meet personal needs based on prior knowledge and experience, can engage in independent study appropriate to his/her unique learning style, and can integrate information from many sources, including student peers, into a conceptual framework for use in dealing with future problems.
Small group learning is a natural extension of problem-based learning. To maximize small group learning, we believe it is important to bring students from various educational and work experience backgrounds together so that the heterogeneity of the group itself becomes a valuable learning resource. The transfer of knowledge is enhanced through the use of problems that encourage students to not only learn content, but also to develop strategies to recognize the ‘analogy' or ‘principle' that can then be transferred to new problems and contexts.
Evidence-based practice is also an important part of our educational framework, led by faculty who are recognized internationally for the application of evidence-based practice in physiotherapy.
One of the goals of the program is to graduate physiotherapists who are evidence-based practitioners which means:
In the second year, students advance their evidence-based practice and research skills by working in groups on research projects and presenting the results to their peers, faculty and the clinical community.
Interprofessional education is an important educational framework within rehabilitation and health sciences. The Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster University has developed PIPER (Program of Interprofessional Education and Research) to encourage students to develop strong collaborative and team skills for future practice. The physiotherapy program supports interprofessional educational activities for all students. Click here to learn more about PIPER.
Student performance is evaluated on a regular basis throughout the MSc(PT) Program using a variety of evaluation tools that are consistent with the basic principles of problem-based and self-directed learning.
The evaluation process can be formative or summative, and as such, it provides valuable feedback to students to enhance their learning. Evaluations are also used to assure faculty, students, clients, and society that graduates possess the required knowledge, skills, and professional behaviours to function as competent professionals.
Evaluation presents a challenge for any curriculum. A curriculum founded on the basis of problem-based, self-directed learning lends additional dimensions to this challenge. As no single evaluation method can assess all domains of learning or competence, various methods must be used. The choice of the evaluation method or tool is based on educational value (e.g., formative or summative), learning objective domain (e.g., cognitive, psychomotor, affective), measurement properties (e.g., reliability, validity, generalizability), and feasibility (e.g., time needed, resources required, costs).
Some of the student evaluation methods and tools used in the MSc(PT) Program include:
Tutorial performance of the group as a whole and of each of its members (including the tutor) is evaluated on a regular basis throughout each unit. The final student grade is based on knowledge, use of learning resources, group participation and facilitation, critical appraisal skills, professional behaviours and evaluation skills (i.e., self-assessment, peer-assessment, and tutor evaluation).
Written exams using multiple choice questions (MCQs) or a short answer format are used to assess knowledge.
Modified essay questions (MEQs) are designed to assess aspects of clinical reasoning and problem-solving using a paper problem as a stimulus. The MEQ presents the student with progressive amounts of information about a practice problem in a sequence predetermined by the examiner. At successive stages, the student responds to the information and is asked to make and explain his/her decisions.
Essays are used to evaluate knowledge, critical appraisal skills, critical thinking, analysis, and synthesis skills. The essay tests the understanding of principles or relationships, and fosters independent thinking and learning. Furthermore, it is used to develop and evaluate writing skills. Essays are assessed on content, organization, style, and mechanics. A problem write-up which focuses on a particular case scenario/client problem is a variation of the traditional essay.
Direct Observation is used primarily to evaluate technical/behavioural skills. This type of practical examination might be used to evaluate interviewing skills, assessment techniques, and/or use of therapeutic interventions.
Objective and Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) is an objective evaluation measure used to assess components of clinical competence. It has the potential for testing a wide range of knowledge and clinical skills, and can be utilized to evaluate a large number of students during one examination period. The OSCE can be used as a formative or summative measure of student performance and also provides valuable feedback to faculty for the purpose of curriculum revision.
The OSCE is structured in such a way as to sample student performance in a variety of areas and to make maximum use of the time available. Students rotate around a series of timed stations. There may be up to 10 stations of 5 or 10 minutes duration. At each station, students are asked to perform a specific task such as taking a patient history, performing a physical examination or diagnostic procedure, teaching/counselling/advising a patient, writing a prescription or report, charting, performing a treatment technique or other clinical procedure, and interpreting findings such as lab reports, and x-rays. Examiner stations, where an observer is asked to score a student=s performance, usually entail interaction with a standardized patient or use of a mannequin. Marker stations, where a student is asked to answer written questions, record findings or interpret patient data, do not require an observer but entail subsequent marking.
Evaluation criteria are determined in advance on the basis of course objectives and student learning activities. A standardized rating form is used for evaluation by the examiners. Safety and professionalism are included within the evaluative criteria.
Presentations are also used throughout the program. A health care professional must be able to articulate and defend an opinion or position, and, to present information and ideas in an organized and clear manner. To help the students develop these skills, individual and group presentations are used as evaluation components in most units.
Learning contracts are used to evaluate student performance during clinical placement experiences and for remedial work. The use of a learning contract reinforces the students' role as an active participant in the process of learning, rather than a passive recipient. In the professional preparation setting, learning contracts allow the student to meet the program objectives and also to pursue individual objectives. The learning contract is a document comprised of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) goals and is developed by the student and approved by a faculty member. It specifies what the student will learn, how this will be accomplished, within what time frame, and what specific evaluation criteria will be used for each objective. The learning contract reconciles the "imposed" requirements of the program with the learner's own personal goals and objectives. It enables the student to choose his/her own way of achieving the objectives and to self-evaluate the progress towards achieving them.
*NSS Program Under Review
The Mission of the NSS:
To provide rehabilitation learners with an opportunity to increase their awareness of Northern rural and remote as well as aboriginal health care issues and improve the potential for their recruitment and retention to these areas.
To provide career development opportunities for practitioners who will be practicing in Northern community rehabilitation centres.
What is the NSS?
The Northern Studies Stream is a unique learning experience...
In 1990, McMaster University partnered with Lakehead University and the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care to create a satellite campus in Thunder Bay. The partnership has now evolved to include the Northern Ontario School of Medicine.
Parallel academic units are run in both Thunder Bay and at McMaster for 8 weeks
The NSS curriculum is delivered in a manner that ensures the same high academic standards between the McMaster and Thunder Bay sites.
The Northern Studies Stream has been identified as a highlight of the program in previous accreditation reviews.
Why was the NSS developed?
The NSS was developed in response to a need for rural clinicians in Northern Ontario. There are a multitude of benefits from this program, including:
Increasing students' awareness and knowledge of the determinants of health unique to northern and rural communities
Increasing awareness of First Nations health concerns and practices
Providing students with skills required for the unique practice of rural healthcare
Support from preceptors, program educators and other clinicians in the north
Partnerships between rehabilitation professionals, McMaster, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine and the local communities.
What are the opportunities to participate in the NSS Program?
Clinical placements in Units II, III, IV, VI
Academic and Clinical in Unit V (January – April)
Who is involved in the NSS program?
Delivers approximately 33 placements per year for PT students. By the end of their program, almost one half of the PT class will have had a clinical placement and/or academic unit in the north
NSS Coordinator is a McMaster University Faculty member
Faculty employ strategies to ensure consistency including: use of video and audio conferencing technology, shared marking of evaluations and on-going communication between the Unit chair, course coordinators and the NSS coordinator
Clinical Instructors and Local Clinicians:
Clinical Instructors are recruited and supported by the regional Physiotherapy Placement Coordinator in Northern Ontario
Involvement with the program allows local clinicians to participate in curriculum delivery and evaluation
Many local clinicians have a Professional Associate appointment with the School of Rehabilitation Science for their contributions to academic and clinical teaching and/or are faculty members of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine.
How successful is the NSS program?
Studies conducted by McMaster faculty in the north and other program staff have demonstrated that:
Between 2002 and 2010, 34% of NSS Program participants chose to live and work in a rural/remote area upon graduation from the PT program (1)
The recruitment percentage is 3.3 times higher amongst students who participate in the NSS Unit 5 academic + clinical placement, versus a clinical placement alone in other units (1)
Of those students participating in Unit 5 NSS:
o 67% indicated that the academic and clinical experience prepared them well for the unique nature of physiotherapy practice in rural/remote areas (1)
o 82% indicated that it enhanced their awareness of the health needs specific to First Nations peoples (1)
o 69% indicated that their participation in NSS was an important deciding factor in their decision to subsequently move to Northern Ontario (2)
How are current students selected to participate in the NSS program?
An information session will be held for those students who may be interested in the Northern Studies Stream in the fall of the first year
Amongst applicants, a random draw is held
Students may be able to complete more than one placement in the north if sufficient spots are available.
Funding is provided to students for travel and accommodations through a grant provided the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care.
Travel by Car: Mileage is reimbursed for one round trip from McMaster to placement community.
Travel by plane: will be arranged directly by the travel coordinator.
Accommodations are provided by the Northern Ontario School of Medicine.
Enquires about the Northern Studies Stream should be directed to:
Assistant Professor, School of Rehabilitation Science
Physiotherapy Coordinator, Northern Studies Stream
1. Winn CS, Chisholm BA, Hummelbrunner JA, Tryssenaar J, Kandler LS. Impact of the Northern Studies Stream and Rehabilitation Studies Programs on Recruitment and Retention to Rural/ Remote Practice: 2002-2010. Rural and Remote Health Journal (in press).
2. Winn CS, Chisholm BA, Hummelbrunner JA. Factors affecting recruitment and retention of rehabilitation professionals in Northern Ontario, Canada: a cross-sectional study. Rural and Remote Health 14: 2619. (Online) 2014. Available: http://www.rrh.org.au
The Master of Science (Physiotherapy) Program at McMaster University has completed the accreditation review process administered by Physiotherapy Education Accreditation Canada (PEAC). PEAC is an incorporated body under the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act and operates as the accrediting agency for physiotherapy education programs in Canada. The status of Accreditation, Fully Compliant was granted to the program on April 30, 2015 for the period until April 30, 2021. (click here for programs with accreditation status).
A description of accreditation status – fully compliant includes: (Per PEAC policy ACC-02 Disclosure, Appendix B)
Click here to find more details regarding the definitions of the levels of accreditation.
For more information about PEAC: Physiotherapy Education Accreditation Canada, Suite 26, 509 Commissioners Road West, London, Ontario, N6J 1Y5, (250) 494-0677, www.peac-aepc.ca)
All physiotherapists in Canada must be registered with the appropriate provincial regulatory body in order to practice in that province.
Each regulatory body has a separate and distinct registration process, however, in all circumstances, a degree in physiotherapy is required.
Graduates must successfully complete the Physiotherapy Competency Examination (PCE) in order to practice in the province of Ontario, and most other provinces in Canada. This examination is administered the Canadian Alliance of Physiotherapy Regulators (The Alliance).