Building evidence-based practice competencies among rehabilitation students: a qualitative exploration of faculty and preceptors' perspectives

Adv Health Sci Educ Theory Pract. 2021 Apr 25. doi: 10.1007/s10459-021-10051-0. Online ahead of print.


Medical education literature suggests clinically-integrated teaching may be the most effective approach to teach evidence-based practice (EBP). Before implementing this educational best practice in rehabilitation curricula, it is imperative to better understand the current context, barriers and facilitators to teach EBP in rehabilitation from the academic to the clinical setting. The aim of this study was to explore faculty and preceptors' experiences and perceptions of teaching EBP in rehabilitation professions, namely occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech-language pathology. We gathered data from seven focus groups and an individual interview with a sample of 24 faculty and 15 preceptors, i.e., clinical supervisors. Data collected were subjected to inductive thematic content analysis. We identified three overarching themes and corresponding strategies. First, "Recognizing EBP as a multifaceted concept" denoted participants' lack of consensus regarding the meaning and scope of EBP, and their awareness of such discrepancies. Second, "Complexity of EBP is at the core of teaching practices and experiences" referred to participants' perception of EBP as a complex process involving high-level cognitive skills, which influenced their teaching practices and challenged students and themselves. Third, "Connections and divides between research and practice" represented the limited and delicate connection between faculty and preceptors, the factors either bridging or maintaining the gap between them, and the impacts of such connections and divides on teaching. Improving collaboration between faculty and preceptors constitutes an essential first step towards more effective EBP training programs in rehabilitation that could be facilitated through online communities of practice or integrated knowledge translation research projects.

Keywords: Education; Evidence-based practice; Faculty; Occupational therapy; Physical therapy; Preceptor; Qualitative research; Rehabilitation; Speech-language pathology; Teaching.