Just published in the September 2006 issue of Physical Therapy:
Brennan GP, Fritz JM, Hunter SJ. Impact of continuing education interventions on clinical outcomes of patients with neck pain who received physical therapy. Physical Therapy 2006; 86(9):1251-1262.
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Physical therapists frequently attend continuing education courses with the goal of providing better care, yet the effectiveness of continuing education for improving outcomes has not been examined.
SUBJECTS: Data were obtained for all eligible patients (n=1,365; mean age=42.1 years, SD=14.0 years; 69.9% female) with a chief complaint of neck pain who were treated in 13 physical therapy clinics over a 24-month period. Disability data (Neck Disability Index scores) from the initial and final therapy sessions were recorded from clinical databases.
METHODS: Thirty-four of 57 physical therapists employed within the 13 clinics attended a 2-day continuing education course. Eleven of the 34 attendees also participated in an ongoing clinical improvement project for patients with neck pain. Clinical outcomes were compared in the pre- and post-course periods for therapists attending or not attending the course, and for therapists participating or not participating in the ongoing project.
RESULTS: There were no differences in clinical outcomes based on attendance at the continuing education course. There was an interaction between time and participation in the ongoing project, such that participants achieved greater change in disability after the course. The percentage of patients achieving at least the minimum detectable amount of change in disability with treatment increased significantly for participants after the course.
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION: Attendance at a 2-day continuing education course was not associated with improvement in clinical outcomes, but participation in an ongoing improvement project did result in greater clinical improvement for patients with neck pain. Further investigation of educational methods to improve clinical outcomes is needed. These results suggest that traditional continuing education formats may not be effective for improving patient care.
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