Key Steps in Infusing Evidence into CE Course Content: Introduction
Introduction to Evidence-Based Continuing Education (CE)
The CE administrator, planner, and presenter all have essential roles in promoting evidence-based practice (EBP). Clinicians who are novices in the use of evidence-based practice and are not provided with the necessary tools or skills can become frustrated when they are expected to implement evidence-based practice in their clinical setting. Even experienced clinicians deal with frustrations such as a conflict of clinical priorities, the lack of time to spend on the evidence-based practice process, or a lack of resources (dePalma, 2007). This gap between knowledge and skills can be remedied through effective use of continuing education programs.
What is evidence-based continuing education?
In evidence-based continuing education sessions, the presenter:
- provides the best available, current evidence to support a particular practice or guideline and
- provides a citation for each component on the slides or handouts. (A reference list as a final slide or provided to the audience is not sufficient. Information on the slides is directly linked to the references.)
In addition, one must keep in mind that instructors are selected because of their expertise and/or experience in a particular area. Therefore, just as in EBP, presenters of EB CE offerings combine their expertise and experience with the best available, current evidence to guide the presentation.
What is the importance of infusing evidence into course content?
Attending EB CE sessions benefits the participant in several ways. Presenters at such sessions provide:
- the "why" of content and make the implications for practice obvious,
- clearly discuss the degree of evidence that is available to guide practice,
- provide references for all content and clinical recommendations, and
- supply evidence for clinical recommendations that are ethically supportable (dePalma, 2007).
At the end of an EB CE session, the participant possesses a wealth of information that can be immediately applied to his or her practice. References can also be used at a future time to support or change clinical practice. Statements on the presenter's slides are cited so participants can access the original evidence at a later time to expand their knowledge and, if needed, to argue for a change in practice. When vital information on slides is not cited, a participant might remember that a point was made in the presentation or have written it in his or her notes but might not be able to remember the exact reference to use as support in a practice change situation. This is not a problem with an EB session. The handout itself remains a valuable resource (dePalma, 2007). For more information, see DePalma, JA (2007), The Value of Evidence-Based Continuing Education, Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 38(2): 52–53.
Sample slide citing evidence
Gravel, Dunn, Lee, Wei, & Ellis (2006)
Ear & Hearing 27(3): 299–312
- Compared auditory skills of children "on the spectrum" compared to typically-developing children
- No differences on behavioral or physiologic (OAEs, acoustic reflexes) measures
Evidence-based sessions encourage participants to use the information to improve the practice in their clinical settings and to explore pertinent clinical questions that exist in their own practice. Handouts from EB CE activities should be shared with colleagues and used to stimulate discussions about best practice in any clinical setting.
How do CE administrators and planners work with presenters on infusing evidence into course content?
Many clinically-based practice committees (e.g., developers of guidance documents) are conducting EB projects such as systematic reviews. CE providers who are currently planning traditional educational activities or conference sessions should consider expanding their offerings to include sessions that present EB systematic reviews that can change practice, or how-to sessions on skills needed to implement EBP.
With the current emphasis on EBP, such presentations will attract additional clinicians and clinic managers who are focused on improving practice with evidence. Including an EB track within a traditional conference might be one way to broaden the audience base.
Evidence-based sessions can take two distinct approaches:
- teaching the skills necessary to be able to integrate evidence into practice (i.e., developing the problem statement in a PICO format, searching the literature, and focusing the search), and
- presenting guidelines for best current practice based on the most valid evidence.