Changes in physiotherapy students’ knowledge and perceptions of EBP from first year to graduation: a mixed methods study
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Abstract Background Dedicated Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) courses are often included in health professional education programs. It is important to understand the effectiveness of this training. This study investigated EBP outcomes in entry-level physiotherapy students from baseline to completion of all EBP training (graduation). Methods Mixed methods with an explanatory sequential design. Physiotherapy students completed two psychometrically–tested health professional EBP instruments at baseline and graduation. The Evidence-Based Practice Profile questionnaire collected self-reported data (Terminology, Confidence, Practice, Relevance, Sympathy), and the Knowledge of Research Evidence Competencies instrument collected objective data (Actual Knowledge). Focus groups with students were conducted at graduation to gain a deeper understanding of the factors impacting changes in students’ EBP knowledge, attitudes, behaviour and competency. Descriptive statistics, paired t-tests, 95% CI and effect sizes (ES) were used to examine changes in outcome scores from baseline to graduation. Transcribed focus group data were analysed following a qualitative descriptive approach with thematic analysis. A second stage of merged data analysis for mixed methods studies was undertaken using side-by-side comparisons to explore quantitatively assessed EBP measures with participants’ personal perceptions. Results Data were analysed from 56 participants who completed both instruments at baseline and graduation, and from 21 focus group participants. Large ES were reported across most outcomes: Relevance (ES 2.29, p ≤ 0.001), Practice (1.8, p ≤ 0.001), Confidence (1.67, p ≤ 0.001), Terminology (3.13, p ≤ 0.001) and Actual Knowledge (4.3, p ≤ 0.001). A medium ES was found for Sympathy (0.49, p = 0.008). Qualitative and quantitative findings mostly aligned but for statistical terminology, participants’ self-reported understanding was disparate with focus group reported experiences. Qualitative findings highlighted the importance of providing relevant context and positive role models for students during EBP training. Conclusions Following EBP training across an entry-level physiotherapy program, there were qualitative and significant quantitative changes in participants’ knowledge and perceptions of EBP. The qualitative and quantitative findings were mainly well-aligned with the exception of the Terminology domain, where the qualitative findings did not support the strength of the effect reported quantitatively. The findings of this study have implications for the timing and content of EBP curricula in entry-level health professional programs.
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