How rehabilitation therapists gather, evaluate, and implement new knowledge

J Contin Educ Health Prof. 2002 Summer;22(3):170-80. doi: 10.1002/chp.1340220306.


Introduction: Rehabilitation therapists are strongly encouraged to apply research to their practices, but relatively little is known about the processes therapists use for continuing their education. This study examines the strategies used by a sample of therapists to gather new knowledge, evaluate its appropriateness to their clinical problems, and implement new learning into their practices.

Methods: Twenty-four randomly selected occupational therapists and physical therapists from a large metropolitan area participated in in-depth interviews. Descriptive codes within interview transcripts described participants' individual approaches to continuing education (CE). Themes derived from comparative analysis across interviews were interpreted, building on prior understandings and suggesting strategies for CE research and programs.

Results: Participants valued formal CE highly and expressed frustration concerning its limited availability. Most participants relied on informal consultations with peers as their first educational resource. Peers also supported participants' evaluation and implementation of new knowledge. Although seven participants reported use of systematic methods to access, evaluate, and implement new knowledge, others described more haphazard approaches toward evaluation and application of their learning. Participants identified economic, administrative, and interprofessional barriers to integration of new knowledge into their practices.

Discussion: There is a need to develop and incorporate guidelines for evaluating and implementing learning within formal and informal CE programs. The appeal of formal CE suggests that more efficient strategies for continuing rehabilitation are required. Therapists' heavy reliance on peers suggests that educationally influential therapists may be effective media for informal CE interventions. CE targeted to policy makers should focus on promoting organizational change to enhance therapists' translation of research into practice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Education, Continuing / methods*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Personnel / education*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Learning
  • Occupational Therapy / standards*
  • Peer Group
  • Physical Therapy Specialty / standards*
  • Professional Competence
  • Random Allocation
  • Urban Population