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Open Access Research article

Promoting physical therapists’ use of research evidence to inform clinical practice: part 2 - a mixed methods evaluation of the PEAK program

Julie K Tilson1*, Sharon Mickan2, Jonathan C Sum1, Maria Zibell1, Jacquelyn M Dylla1 and Robbin Howard1

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy, University of Southern California, 1540 Alcazar St., CHP 155, Los Angeles, CA 90089, USA

2 Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford, Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, Oxford OX2 6GG, UK

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BMC Medical Education 2014, 14:126  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-14-126

Published: 25 June 2014

Abstract

Background

Clinicians need innovative educational programs to enhance their capacity for using research evidence to inform clinical decision-making. This paper and its companion paper introduce the Physical therapist-driven Education for Actionable Knowledge translation (PEAK) program, an educational program designed to promote physical therapists’ integration of research evidence into clinical decision-making. This, second of two, papers reports a mixed methods feasibility study of the PEAK program among physical therapists at three university-based clinical facilities.

Methods

A convenience sample of 18 physical therapists participated in the six-month educational program. Mixed methods were used to triangulate results from pre-post quantitative data analyzed concurrently with qualitative data from semi-structured interviews and focus groups. Feasibility of the program was assessed by evaluating change in participants’ attitudes, self-efficacy, knowledge, skills, and self-reported behaviors in addition to their perceptions and reaction to the program.

Results

All 18 therapists completed the program. The group experienced statistically significant improvements in evidence based practice self-efficacy and self-reported behavior (p < 0.001). Four themes were supported by integrated quantitative and qualitative results: 1. The collaborative nature of the PEAK program was engaging and motivating; 2. PEAK participants experienced improved self-efficacy, creating a positive cycle where success reinforces engagement with research evidence; 3. Participants’ need to understand how to interpret statistics was not fully met; 4. Participants believed that the utilization of research evidence in their clinical practice would lead to better patient outcomes.

Conclusions

The PEAK program is a feasible educational program for promoting physical therapists’ use of research evidence in practice. A key ingredient seems to be guided small group work leading to a final product that guides local practice. Further investigation is recommended to assess long-term behavior change and to compare outcomes to alternative educational models.

Keywords:
Knowledge translation; Evidence based practice; Education; Post-graduate training; Physical therapy; Mixed methods