Changes in attitudes and perceptions about research in physical therapy among professional physical therapist students and new graduates

B H Connolly, N S Lupinnaci, A J Bush
Physical Therapy 2001, 81 (5): 1127-34

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: The physical therapy profession, through its published educational accreditation standards and its normative model of professional education, has addressed the importance of educating physical therapist students in the basic principles and application of research. The purpose of this study was to conduct a longitudinal study of students relative to (1) their perception of knowledge with respect to research, (2) their perception of what source should be used (evidence-based practice or traditional protocols) for clinical decision making, and (3) their perception of what should be used in a clinical setting for patient management.

SUBJECTS: Thirty-six students during the final year of their professional program from a sample of 115 physical therapist students who requested 2 consecutive physical therapist classes completed the entire sequence of pretest and posttest survey administrations. Seventy-nine students did not complete the entire sequence.

METHODS: A 10-item 5-point Likert-type questionnaire was designed by the authors to probe the students' attitudes and perceptions about research, their level of comfort and confidence in reading and applying research findings published in the literature, and their personal habits regarding reading the professional literature. An expert panel consisting of internal and external reviewers was used for construction of the questionnaire. The questionnaire was completed by the students immediately preceding their research methods course, immediately after the completion of that course, and following the second research course, which included statistics and development of a research proposal. The subjects also completed the questionnaire after 1 year of physical therapy practice. Friedman's analysis of variance was used as an omnibus test to detect differences across time. In addition, a follow-up analysis using the Wilcoxon signed-rank procedure to examine differences between baseline data and data obtained during each follow-up was done for all items to determine whether a difference occurred at a time other than at the final posttest survey administration.

RESULTS: The students showed differences on 5 of the 10 items on the questionnaire during the study.

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION: These items related to reading peer-reviewed professional journals, critically reading professional literature, relevance and importance of evidence-based clinical practice, and level of comfort with knowledge in research.

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