JOURNAL ARTICLE

Providing education on evidence-based practice improved knowledge but did not change behaviour: a before and after study

Annie McCluskey, Meryl Lovarini
BMC Medical Education 2005, 5: 40
16364181

BACKGROUND: Many health professionals lack the skills to find and appraise published research. This lack of skills and associated knowledge needs to be addressed, and practice habits need to change, for evidence-based practice to occur. The aim of this before and after study was to evaluate the effect of a multifaceted intervention on the knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviour of allied health professionals.

METHODS: 114 self-selected occupational therapists were recruited. The intervention included a 2-day workshop combined with outreach support for eight months. Support involved email and telephone contact and a workplace visit. Measures were collected at baseline, post-workshop, and eight months later. The primary outcome was knowledge, measured using the Adapted Fresno Test of Evidence-Based Practice (total score 0 to 156). Secondary outcomes were attitude to evidence-based practice (% reporting improved skills and confidence; % reporting barriers), and behaviour measured using an activity diary (% engaging/not engaging in search and appraisal activities), and assignment completion.

RESULTS: Post-workshop, there were significant gains in knowledge which were maintained at follow-up. The mean difference in the Adapted Fresno Test total score was 20.6 points (95% CI, 15.6 to 25.5). The change from post-workshop to follow-up was small and non-significant (mean difference 1.2 points, 95% CI, -6.0 to 8.5). Fewer participants reported lack of searching and appraisal skills as barriers to evidence-based practice over time (searching = 61%, 53%, 24%; appraisal 60%, 65%, 41%). These differences were statistically significant (p = 0.0001 and 0.010 respectively). Behaviour changed little. Pre-workshop, 6% engaged in critical appraisal increasing to 18% post-workshop and 18% at follow-up. Nearly two thirds (60%) were not reading any research literature at follow-up. Twenty-three participants (20.2%) completed their assignment.

CONCLUSION: Evidence-based practice skills and knowledge improved markedly with a targetted education intervention and outreach support. However, changes in behaviour were small, based on the frequency of searching and appraisal activities. Allied health educators should focus more on post-workshop skill development, particularly appraisal, and help learners to establish new routines and priorities around evidence-based practice. Learners also need to know that behaviour change of this nature may take months, even years.

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