In the last few years the significance of life-long learning skills has been greatly realised with regard to adult learning, which is based on self-motivation, engagement in learning and making full use of a person's resources. In this context, it is paramount that healthcare professionals take responsibility for their profession by being innovative, creative and flexible to change in order to facilitate the adaptation process and encourage responsiveness to change. The main principles can be summarized as lifelong learning, which are strictly linked to self-directed learning. The aims of this study were to describe (a) the self-directed learning competence of nurses (registered nurse, RN) and radiologist technicians (RT); (b) the self-directed learning competence of RN and RT students before their graduation. A comparative cross-sectional study approach was adopted; a consecutive sample of RNs and RTs attending continuing education seminars, workshops and other initiatives from 2009 to 2010 were considered for this study. Moreover, all nursing and radiology technicians students about to graduate in the same course and studying in the same region were included. The self-rating scale of self-directed learning (SRSSDL) was used to collect data for the purpose of the study. Eight hundred and forty-seven participants were involved (453 RNs, 141 RTs, 182 RN students and 68 RT students) who obtained an average SRSSDL score of 224.7 (±25.0). RNs and RTs got on average a medium-high score (229.1 ± 22.9 and 219.6 ± 29.2, respectively) and the majority of them (63.8-51.1%) reached a high level of self-directed learning. In order to promote tailored continuing education programs and interprofessional continuing education strategies, and identify the support to offer to healthcare workers according to their needs, educators should be aware of their self-directed learning skills. Therefore, individuals with high competence should adopt different strategies from those who have limited skills. Reflecting on self-directed learning competence of students before their graduation incorporates self-directed learning into the professional continuum and clarifies the University's contribution in developing this important skill.
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