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UCD Physiotherapy Hub Community Engagement Projects

UCD Physiotherapy Hub Community Engagement Projects


Evolving from a long-standing collaboration between UCD Sport and UCD Physiotherapy. the Physio Hub was founded in 2015 by Dr Caitriona Cunningham, Dr Catherine Blake and Dr Sinead McMahon. Here, physiotherapists, supported by students, address the health needs of the local and wider community, promoting physical activity and healthy lifestyles via community exercise and health promotion programmes. Student learning experience includes: pre and post exercise screening, promoting the adoption of positive exercise and health behaviours via UCD Better Bones, Better Hearts and Get in Gear programmes; supporting disability inclusion at multi-sports kids’ camps; injury prevention for UCD sports teams and community outreach activities with primary schools, local sports teams and members of the travelling community.Dr Sinead Mc Mahon, Dr Catherine Blake, Dr Caitriona Cunningham, UCD Physiotherapy. School of Public Health, Physiotherapy, Sport Science.

Under the supervision of dedicated practice tutors over fifty BSc and Professional MSc physiotherapy students have completed clinical placements at the Physio Hub since its foundation.  Student experience has included over one thousand student- athlete physiotherapy contacts per year providing injury prevention, pitch side cover, sports massage and player education.

UCD Get in Gear programme (900 per annum) facilitates exercise adoption among more sedentary UCD students. The Physio Hub model also facilitates ongoing evidence based community exercise programmes targeting osteoporosis prevention and management in addition to providing community based cardiac rehabilitation.

Opportunities for engaging in health promotion activities with under-resourced communities are also provided. 

Engagement Projects

Disability Inclusion UCD Sports Camp

A Disability Inclusion partnership has been established with Enable Ireland leading to an enhancement of support mechanisms to facilitate inclusion of children with disability at UCD multisport  Kids’ camps. This initiative sees Physiotherapy students  act as camp instructors as part of their clinical work placement, bringing their knowledge of adapting physical activity and a positive participatory approach  to the camp team. More recently a partnership was established with Coláiste Eoin, Crumlin, a school for children with intellectual disability.

Crumlin Challenge:

Scoil and Coláiste Eoin are primary and secondary schools in Crumlin, Dublin 12, which specialise in providing education programmes and structures to cater for the individual needs of students (approximately 140 students) with mild learning difficulties, enabling those students to access mainstream school curricula and examinations where possible. UCD Physio Hub was invited to become involved with a view to further enhancing the physical education programme at the school. A partnership  was established  with a number of joint meetings  held to establish and prioritise  the Crumlin student and staff needs in relation to physical education  and to plan how best UCD Physiotherapy might  contribute.

Key Outputs:

  • Physio Hub Physical Activity Presentation to staff and students of Scoil/Coláiste Eoin (October 2016)
  • UCD Online Survey of Scoil & Coláiste Eoin staff  (February 2017)
  • Scoil & Coláiste Eoin Teacher Education Day
  • Scoil & Coláiste Eoin student interactive physical activity day at school led by Physiotherapy students
  • Activity Day at UCD Sport (April 2017)
  • Physical activity  Promotion Model for schools with associated resources (e.g. accessible physical activity diaries, presentation,materials, fitness testing protocol)  which will enable roll-out of similar initiatives

The Activity Day involved students and staff in Scoil & Coláiste Eoin along with UCD Sport and included:

- fun sports activities (e.g.archery and wall climbing)

- a tour of the campus

- teacher physical activity challenge

- medals award ceremony UCD Physiotherapy Students leading Physical Activity Education Session with Teachers at Coláiste Eoin, Crumlin, February  2017 

UCD Physiotherapy Students leading Scoil & Coláiste Eoin students in an exercise group at UCD Sport, April  2017

UCD Physiotherapy Staff and Students with SPARC and UCD Sport Representatives -  Scoil &  Coláiste Eoin Activity Day UCD Sport , April 2017Ciara Mageean, Rio Olympic Athlete (1500 metres) 2017, Physio Hub student and Crumlin Challenge Participant 

Traveller Health Initiative

Members of the Tallaght Traveller Community Development Programme conducted workshops with students in UCD in June 2017. This was followed by a visit to the community centre and a number of halting sites in Tallaght to meet with members of the travelling community and the community workers in order to plan an initiative for running after school physical activities starting this Autumn

UCD Physiotherapy & Simmons College Boston students visiting the Tallaght Travellers Centre in Tallaght

Research outputs to date include exercise and education related publications. Client satisfaction level with services provided is high. So too is students satisfaction, despite initial apprehension regarding a new placement model. The main themes identified from the student focus group data included a shift in thinking from a rehab to a health promotion and wellness approach to management, increased confidence in communication and a better understanding of the role physiotherapy can play in health promotion. Students also welcome the opportunity to work in an alternative, creative and flexible setting to address “real world” community health issues.  

UCD Physiotherapy Hub and UCDVO

Background to collaboration between UCD Physiotherapy and UCDVO

UCD Physiotherapy is the oldest and largest provider of physiotherapy education in Ireland. Clinical education comprises a significant proportion of both the BSc. Physiotherapy and MSc Physiotherapy (Pre- registration) degree programmes. Students undertake at least 1000 hours of clinical placement over the course of their programme via five (MS Programme) or seven (BSc Programme) modules. Clinical Placements allow students to observe and practice in a variety of settings and to experience the clinical environment. They facilitate the student to develop and achieve competent skills for practice and link clinical findings with academic learning. Clinical education facilitates the development and application of the knowledge, attitudes, values and skills needed for the contemporary physiotherapy practice.

One 10 credit module is a clinical elective placement where students are afforded the opportunity to arrange their own placement and a small number of students elect to travel overseas to complete their placement in a developing country each year. The contribution of overseas elective placements in low and middle income countries to student learning is immense and anecdotally, students report that it has a direct positive effect on future clinical placements.

UCD Volunteers Overseas, is a registered charity and voluntary organisation based at University College Dublin. UCDVO has been coordinating international volunteer programmes for UCD students, staff and graduates since 2003. Projects currently take place in India, Haiti, Nicaragua, Tanzania and Uganda with an average of 125 volunteers participating each year. Since its establishment in 2003, UCDVO has had a close relationship with UCD Physiotherapy students, with more than 50+ physiotherapy students undertaking UCDVO projects over the past 10 years (approx 25% of volunteers per year are physiotherapy students).

Concurrent to this, many UCD physiotherapy students organise elective placements independently in developing countries as part of their undergraduate degree in June every year. Stuart Garrett, UCD Physiotherapy graduate and returned UCDVO volunteer spent approximately 6 months working in the Kisiizi hospital rehabilitation unit and in 2012 put a formal proposal to both UCD Physiotherapy and UCDVO to join forces in coordinating an elective/volunteer placement at Kisiizi. This proposal was approved by the Board of UCDVO and by UCD Physiotherapy in November 2012. Dr. Ian Spillman, Kisiizi Hospital Medical Superintendent visited UCD in January 2013 and met with UCD Physiotherapy and UCDVO representatives to confirm project details. Following an evaluation of the Uganda 2013 elective placement, UCD Physiotherapy approved two further elective placements in India for 2014.

Partner sites for elective placements currently in use:

Church of Uganda Kisiizi Hospital is a 250 Bed Private Not for Profit (PNFP) Health Care Provider. It is located in rural Rukungiri district of South Western Uganda, one of the nine priority countries of Irish Aid. The hospital consists of 6 wards Surgical, Maternity, Medical, Isolation, Paediatric, Psychiatric as well as an Out patients department/A &E a full rehabilitation department with an attached long term patient rehabilitation ward. There are numerous other services at the hospital such as community based outreach clinics, vaccination programmes, rehabilitation programmes, a HIV and anti retroviral treatment centre and clinics and an orphans project. Since 2010, twenty UCD physiotherapy students have successfully undertaken their elective clinical placement (10 credit module) in Kisiizi Hospital, resulting in a very strong link between UCD and Kisiizi Hospital.

Prem Niketan is a home for disabled children located in Vijayawada in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.  This is the first year for physiotherapy students to undertake a credit-bearing elective placement with UCDVO in India. However, there is a strong tradition of physiotherapy students volunteering in these centres since the project first commenced in 2010 and prior to that via independent volunteer placements. This centre is supported by Care and Share India which employs a full-time physiotherapist from the local area to assist with this centre. A larger team of volunteers from UCD will be working on education projects with Care and Share for the duration of the project. Since 2014 sixteen physiotherapy students have completed their 10 credit elective module in Prem Niketan.

Ferrando Speech and Hearing Centre established in 1996 reaches out to hearing impaired children from all over India, especially from the North East Region. The Centre gives special care for the prevention and reduction of the effects of preventable hearing impairment in young children through early identification, intervention and pre-school education. Besides catering to the children, it also works towards the empowerment of the families of hearing impaired children to face the challenges in bringing up their hearing impaired children. Some of the works undertaken by the institution are Early Intervention, Education, Rehabilitation, Vocational Training and manpower development for the Hearing Impaired, Vision unit (refraction and distribution of corrective glasses), Orthotic, Prosthetic and Physiotherapy unit. Since 2014 twelve physiotherapy students have completed their 10 credit elective module in The Ferrando Speech and Hearing Centre.

Nuture Africa Nansana Uganda

Nuture Africa is a paedicatric health centre that opened in 2011, providing specialised HIV and primary healthcare services for 25,000 children in the region. Nuture Africa works in collaboration with local community health workers and centres to improve standards of care and increase capacity and productivity. Since 2015 eleven physiotherapy students have completed their 10 credit elective placement with Nuture Africa.

Partner Site/

Number of students on elective placement







Church of Uganda Kisiizi Hospital

2 physio

4 physio

4 physio

2 medical

2 nursing

4 physio

3 physio

3 physio

Prem Niketan Vijayawada South India

4 physio

4 physio

4 physio

4 physio

Ferrando Speech and Hearing Centre North East India

3 physio

3 physio

3 physio

3 physio

Nurture Africa Nasana Uganda

3 physio

4 physio

4 physio

Total number of students per year







Table 1: Number of students per year per site

Contact UCD in the Community

Room E0.56, UCD O' Brien Centre for Science (East), University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
T: +353 1 716 2268 | E: ucdic@ucd.ie