Background: Continuing professional development is an important component of capacity building in low resource countries. The purpose of this case study is to describe the use of a contextual instructional framework to guide the processes and instructional design choices for a series of continuing professional development courses for physiotherapists in Rwanda.
Methods: Four phases of the project are described: (1) program proposal, needs assessment and planning, (2) organization of the program and instructional design, (3) instructional delivery and (4) evaluation. Contextual facilitating factors and needs informed choices in each phase.
Outcomes: The model resulted in delivery of continuing professional development to the majority of physiotherapists in Rwanda (n = 168, 0.48 rural/0.52 urban) with participants reporting improvement in skills and perceived benefit for their patients. Environmental and healthcare system factors resulted in offering the courses in rural and urban areas. Content was developed and delivered in partnership with Rwandan coinstructors. Based on the domestic needs identified in early courses, the program included advocacy and leadership activities, in addition to practical and clinical instruction.
Conclusions: The contextual factors (environment, healthcare service organization, need for rehabilitation and status and history of the physiotherapy profession) were essential for project and instructional choices. Facilitating factors included the established professional degree and association, continuing professional development requirements, a core group of active professionals and an existing foundation from other projects. The processes and contextual considerations may be useful in countries with established professional-level education but without established postentry-level training. Implications for Rehabilitation Organizations planning continuing professional development programs may benefit from considering the context surrounding training when planning, designing and developing instruction. The surrounding context including the environment, the organization of healthcare services, the population defined need for rehabilitation, and the domestic status and history of the physiotherapy profession, is important for physiotherapy projects in countries with lower resources. Facilitating factors in low resource countries such as an established professional degree and association, continuing professional development requirements, a core group of active professionals and an existing foundation from other projects impact the success of projects. Methods that may be useful for relevance, dissemination and consistency include involvement of in-country leaders and instructors and attendance in multiple courses with consistent themes. Rehabilitation professionals in low resource countries may benefit from continuing professional development courses that emphasize practical skills, and clinical reasoning, accompanied by clinical mentoring and directed coaching that encourages knowledge transfer to the clinical setting. Active learning approaches and multiple progressive courses provide opportunities to develop peer support through professional communities of practice.
Keywords: Rehabilitation training; active learning; contextual training models; instructional design models; physiotherapy; postprofessional education.