Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Teaching organisation

150 hours of focused learning.

Unit rationale, description and aim

Physiotherapists work with individuals and populations across the lifespan and in a variety of settings to develop, maintain or restore maximum movement and functional ability. In this unit students are introduced to the biopsychosocial factors that influence health, and professional, ethical and legal standards required by regulatory bodies for safe, culturally responsive and person-centred care. Students will develop their communication skills, and learn safe and effective manual handling, passive movement and massage techniques. The overall aim for the unit is to introduce students to the professional practice of a physiotherapist and the acquisition of foundation skills that will be further developed within the curriculum.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Discuss patterns of health, illness and disability and the social, cultural and global factors that influence these (GA1; GA4; GA5)

LO2 - Discuss the varying roles, responsibilities and skills of a physiotherapist as a member of the health care team in a variety of health care settings (GA5; GA7)

LO3 - Demonstrate effective person-centred communication skills (GA1; GA5; GA9)

LO4 - Discuss the requirements for practice as a physiotherapist under the Physiotherapy Board of Australia’s Code of conduct, including cultural and safety considerations (GA1; GA3; GA5)

LO5 - Discuss the principles of, and demonstrate safe and effective, manual handling, passive movement and massage (GA5). 

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity 

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics will include: 

Social contributors of health and illness of health, including: 

  • The context of indigenous health in Australia 
  • Environmental and structural factors, including geographical location, social class, ethnicity and gender 
  • The health of marginalized populations 

Physiotherapy practice 

  • Roles, responsibilities and skills of the physiotherapist throughout different areas of the health care industry, e.g. hospitals, community, ambulatory care, rehabilitation 
  • Classification of disability and function as outlined in the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health 
  • Roles of other health professionals in the health care industry 
  • Infection control 
  • Professional and ethical behaviour appropriate to physiotherapy 

Communication skills 

  • Health records documentation 
  • Individual education 
  • Interviewing an individual 
  • Verbal and non-verbal communication skills 

Manual clinical skills 

  • Palpation of surface anatomy landmarks 
  • Individual handling – safety, comfort and respect 
  • Individual handling techniques to transfer an individual 
  • Passive movement 
  • Soft tissue mobilisation 


  • Peer learning 
  • Self- reflection 
  • Portfolios in practice 

Risk management 

  • Self- awareness of body positioning 
  • Positioning of an individual 
  • Environmental and equipment safety considerations 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit involves 150 hours of learning with a combination of face to face, online and other directed independent learning activities.


The theoretical knowledge underpinning professional practice will be delivered via lectures, tutorial activities and online modules. Practical classes provide students with the opportunity to develop their communication and professional behaviours, manual handling and clinical reasoning skills through the use of case scenarios and simulation learning activities. Case scenarios will be used in tutorials to provide students with an opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge and integrate concepts from different content areas to problem solve issues triggered by these scenarios.


Students will be expected to take responsibility for their learning and to participate actively within group activities, demonstrating respect for the individual as an independent learner.

Assessment strategy and rationale

This unit is the first of two foundation units related to physiotherapy practice. Whilst students have chosen to study physiotherapy, often their understanding of the breadth and depth of the profession is limited. Assessment task 1, Scope of physiotherapy practice (hurdle), is designed to engage students with members of the profession who work across a range of practice areas. The task involves small group work (small group interview of a practising physiotherapist) and encourages peer learning through the presentation of these interviews to the larger cohort. Assessment tasks 2-4 align with the presentation of the content in this unit of study. This unit takes an authentic assessment approach allowing students to demonstrate their learning and competency for clinically relevant scenarios. Assessment tasks 2 and 3 (practical examinations) require students to assimilate and apply theoretical knowledge and perform clinical practice skills in order to demonstrate their emerging professional competence in the areas of manual handling, transfers, passive movement and massage (demonstration on a peer). Assessment task 4 (written examination) requires students to demonstrate acquired theoretical knowledge and assimilate and apply this knowledge to short answer questions and clinically relevant case scenarios.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment Task 1: Scope of physiotherapy practice  

Requires students to undertake, and present the information from, an interview with a practising physiotherapist.  

Group 15 min 



GA5, GA7, GA9 

Assessment Task 2: Mid-semester practical examination 

Requires students to demonstrate competency in professional behaviour, communication skills and the safe and effective implementation of manual handling skills.  

15 min 


LO3, LO5 

GA1, GA5, GA9

Assessment Task 3: End-semester practical examination 

Requires students to demonstrate competency in professional behaviour, communications skills, and safe and effective implementation of passive movements and massage techniques.  

15 min 


LO3, LO5 

GA1, GA5, GA9

Assessment Task 4: End-semester written examination 

Requires students to demonstrate their acquisition and understanding of content from across the semester and application to clinically relevant case scenarios. 

2 hr 


LO1, LO2, LO4, LO5 

GA3, GA4, GA5 

Representative texts and references

De Domenico, G. (2007). Beard's massage (5th ed.). St Louis, Saunders Elsevier. 

Higgs, J., Ajjawi, R., Mc Allister, L., Trede, F., & Loftus, S. (2012). Communicating in the health sciences. (3rd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. 

Pierson, F.M., & Fairchild, S.L. (2013). Principles and techniques of patient care (5th ed.). Philadelphia: W B Saunders. 

Field, D., & Hutchinson, J. (2013). Field's anatomy palpation and surface markings (5th ed.). Edinburgh, London: Butterworth-Heinemann. 

Higgs, J., Smith, M., Webb, G., & Skinner, M. (2009). Contexts of physiotherapy practice. Sydney: Churchill Livingstone. 

Magee, D.J. (2014). Orthopaedic physical assessment (6th ed.). Philadelphia: Saunders. 

World Health Organization (WHO) (2001). International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF)  


Germov, J. (Ed) (2014). Second opinion: An introduction to health sociology (5th ed.). South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.


Willis, K., & Elmer, S. (2011). Society, culture and health: An introduction to sociology for nurses (2nd ed.). South Melbourne, Vic: Oxford University Press.


Adams, R.J., Howard, N., Tucker, G., et al. (2009). Effects of area deprivation on health risks and outcomes: a multilevel, cross-sectional, Australian population study. International Journal of Public Health54(4), 183-192.

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