Purpose: This pilot project, carried out under the National Strategies for Health Care Providers: Pesticides Initiative, assessed the attitudes, beliefs and practices of pediatricians, nurse practitioners, physicians assistants, and nurses in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area and the surrounding rural counties regarding health effects of pesticide toxicity and continuing education on pesticide toxicity in the years 2001-2002.
Methods: Data were collected from practitioners (physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners) and nurses using questionnaires as well as from practitioners using focus groups. Sites for questionnaire distribution and focus groups were selected to represent a variety of practice types and geographic settings. One-hundred-sixty questionnaires from practitioners and 43 from nurses were analyzed. These issues were probed further in six focus groups with 29 participants.
Results: Most respondents in both groups did not frequently diagnose or ask questions about pesticide toxicity on patient histories. Most focus group participants were more comfortable answering questions about acute pesticide toxicity, and many relied on poison control centers for assistance with management of acute cases. They expressed less understanding and more uncertainties about chronic toxicity. When asked questions by patients, 64% of practitioners and 69% of nurses felt poorly prepared to answer them. Forty percent of practitioners but only 26% of nurses felt it was important to obtain more information on pesticides. There were divergent preferences on ways to obtain continuing medical education (CME) in general, but a recurrent theme was the need to make CME on pesticide toxicity clinically relevant and one topic among several in a CME conference. Lectures and short courses were the most commonly preferred modes of education among both practitioners and nurses.
Conclusion: Educational materials to reach this population of pediatric clinicians on pesticides, as well as other environmental health topics, should make the case justifying the importance of the topics, highlight information of clinical relevance, and use a variety of media. These results should be confirmed before being generalized to a broader group of clinicians, although the consistency of findings between focus groups suggests they are robust, at least for this geographic area.