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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Improving capacity for evidence-based practice in South East Asia: evaluating the role of research fellowships in the SEA-ORCHID Project

Jacki Short1, Steve McDonald2*, Tari Turner2, Ruth Martis3 and the SEA-ORCHID Study Group

Author Affiliations

1 Previous Address: Centre for Perinatal Health Services Research, University of Sydney NSW 2006 Australia

2 Australasian Cochrane Centre, Monash University, Victoria 3800, Australia

3 Previous Address: Discipline of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Adelaide, Women's and Children's Hospital, King William Road, North Adelaide SA 5006, Australia

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BMC Medical Education 2010, 10:37  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-10-37

Published: 22 May 2010

Abstract

Background

Fellowships are a component of many professional education programs. They provide opportunities to develop skills and competencies in an environment where time is protected and resources and technical support are more readily available. The SEA-ORCHID fellowships program aimed to increase capacity for evidence-based practice and research synthesis, and to encourage fellows to become leaders in these areas.

Methods

Fellows included doctors, nurses, midwives and librarians working in the maternal and neonatal areas of nine hospitals in South East Asia. Fellowships were undertaken in Australia and involved specific outputs related to evidence-based practice or research synthesis. Training and support was tailored according to the type of output and the fellow's experience and expertise. We evaluated the fellowships program quantitatively and qualitatively through written evaluations, interviews and follow-up of fellowship activities.

Results

During 2006-07, 23 fellows from Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines undertook short-term fellowships (median four weeks) in Australia. The main outputs were drafts of Cochrane systematic reviews, clinical practice guidelines and protocols for randomised trials, and training materials to support evidence-based practice. Protocols for Cochrane systematic reviews were more likely to be completed than other outcomes. The fellows identified several components that were critical to the program's overall success; these included protected time, tailored training, and access to technical expertise and resources. On returning home, fellows identified a lack of time and limited access to the internet and evidence-based resources as barriers to completing their outputs. The support of colleagues and senior staff was noted as an important enabler of progress, and research collaborators from other institutions and countries were also important sources of support.

Conclusions

The SEA-ORCHID fellowships program provided protected time to work on an output which would facilitate evidence-based practice. While the fellows faced substantial barriers to completing their fellowship outputs once they returned home, these fellowships resulted in a greater understanding, enthusiasm and skills for evidence-based practice. The experience of the SEA-ORCHID fellowships program may be useful for other initiatives aiming to build capacity in evidence-based practice.