Perception of peer physical examination in two Australian osteopathy programs

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Publication details

Vaughan, B & Grace, S 2016, 'Perception of peer physical examination in two Australian osteopathy programs', Chiropractic & Manual Therapies, vol. 24.

Article available on Open Access



Peer physical examination (PPE) is an efficient and practical educational approach whereby students can practise their examination skills on each other before commencing clinical practice with actual patients. Little is known about the use of PPE in osteopathy education.


Students in Year 1 of the osteopathy programs at Victoria University (Melbourne, Australia) and Southern Cross University (Lismore, Australia) completed the Examining Fellow Students and the Peer Physical Examination questionnaires prior to, and at the completion of, their first 12-week teaching session. Descriptive statistics were generated for each questionnaire. The McNemar and sign tests were used to evaluate differences between each questionnaire administration. Logistic regression was used to evaluate the influence of demographics on responses to both questionnaires.


Results showed that students in both programs were generally willing to examine non-sensitive areas both before and after the 12-week teaching session. Students’ were less apprehensive about PPE at the end of the teaching session, and this was reinforced by results for previous exposure to PPE in other courses. Consistent with previous studies, unwillingness to participate in PPE was associated with being female, being born outside Australia, holding religious beliefs, and being older.


This is the first study to explore students’ perceptions of PPE in this cohort and provides a basis for further work, including evaluating longer term changes in student perception of PPE, and whether these perceptions extend to practising manual therapy techniques. This study demonstrates that perceptions about PPE reported in medicine and other disciplines, namely that unwillingness to participate in PPE is associated with being female, being born outside Australia, holding religious beliefs, and being older, also apply to osteopathy. These findings are significant for all manual therapy students who spend a substantial portion of their course developing skills in PPE and practising manual therapy techniques. They highlight the need for curriculum development that acknowledges the importance of good practice in PPE, including discussions about body image, feedback skills training for educators, and providing detailed information to students about what to expect in practical skills classes before they commence their course.

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