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Aliki Thomas, Annie Rochette, Fatima Amari and the Canada EBP Project Team

What is the recently graduated PT’s experience with evidence-based practice? Does it evolve over time?

Physiotherapy students across Canada receive state-of-the-art education in order to be ready to enter a variety of complex practice environments. Once in the ‘real’ world, PTs are expected to be good communicators, advocates, experts, collaborators, and to take on the role of the scholarly practitioner where they will be instrumental in bridging research-practice gaps; that is, applying research findings to their clinical practice. A tall order?

PT students are taught about how to use the scientific evidence to make clinical decisions and are provided with learning opportunities to develop the skills necessary to take on the role of the scholarly practitioner. The process by which clinicians apply results from research to make decisions in their daily practice is part of the process called evidence-based practice (EBP). However, currently, research evidence and many best practice guidelines are underused among PTs. 

This issue left us wondering: what happens to evidence-based practice when PT students leave the academic environment to navigate the complex corridors of clinical practice in their new role as PTs? What factors impact on their ability to take on the role of the scholarly practitioner? Are these factors related to the individual or to the organization in which they work…or both?

Supported by a Canadian Institutes for Heath Research grant, a group of Canadian PT and OT researchers are working closely with national professional associations, associations of PT and OT university programs and regulators on a large pan-Canadian study to answer these questions.   


What did we do?

PTs and OTs from 16 universities across Canada (representing 28 programs; 2016-2017 cohorts) were invited to participate in a 4-year longitudinal study approximately 4-6 weeks after they graduated. Close to 300 recently graduated clinicians (about half being PTs) agreed to participate in the study and completed the first online survey; this group now makes up our main sample, whom we will follow over the course of their first 3-year journey into clinical practice. Participation in the study involves completing a 15-minute online survey, on a yearly basis, that asks about attitudes, knowledge, and activities related to EBP. Each year a subset of them are also invited to partake in a 30-minute phone interview and/or an online focus group where they can speak with PTs and OTs from all around the country. This experience affords them the possibility of exchanging on and learning about how their peers approach EBP and how they navigate barriers that they may encounter in the clinical context. We are headed into the second year of this study and have the opportunity to speak with many of our valued participants and learn from their insights. We continue to work closely with our partners to ensure that this project addresses key areas that are important for the profession and that the findings from this study directly benefit our stakeholders –YOU! - PTs/OTs as well as students who are the future of this profession. 


What will this research do, you ask?

This research is vital for informing educational and continuing professional development programs aimed at maintaining clinical competence, ensuring that clinicians are offering state of the art evidence-based services and for designing curricula that better prepare graduates for the evolving clinical contexts, and for designing organizational supports to stem any decline in EBP.


Over to you

How can the CPA help you to stay current with the latest evidence? What are the barriers that you face to EBP? What tips do you have for PTs to find and use evidence in clinical practice? 


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