Evidence-based practice (EBP) has become an important competency in many allied and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) health care practitioners' professional standards of proficiency.
To compliment an EBP course for allied health care professionals and CAM practitioners, we undertook a questionnaire survey to assess learning needs. We developed a questionnaire to measure allied health care professionals and CAM practitioners' basic knowledge, skills and beliefs concerning the main principles of EBP. The questionnaires were administered to all attendees of one-day EBP workshops.
During 2004–5 we surveyed 193 allied health care professionals and CAM practitioners who attended one-day EBP courses prior to commencement of teaching. Of the respondents 121 (62.7%) were allied health care professionals and 65 (33.7%) practitioners stated that they work in the CAM field Our survey found that the majority of the respondents had not previously attended a literature appraisal skills workshop (87.3%) or received formal training in research methods (69.9%), epidemiology (91.2%) or statistics (80.8%). Furthermore, 67.1% of practitioners specified that they felt that they had not had adequate training in EBM and they identified that they needed more training and education in the principles of EBM (86.7%). Differences in knowledge and beliefs concerning EBP amongst allied and CAM practitioners were found and length of time since qualification was also found to be an important factor in practitioner's beliefs. More CAM practitioners compared to allied health professionals accessed educational literature via the Internet (95.3% v 68.1%, p = 0.008). Whilst, practitioners with more than 11 years experience felt that original research papers were far more confusing (p = 0.02) than their less experienced colleagues.
The results demonstrate that practitioner's learning needs do vary according to the type of profession, time since graduation and prior research experience. Our survey findings are exploratory and will benefit from further replication, however, we do believe that they warrant consideration by allied health care and CAM tutors and trainers when planning EBP teaching curricula as it is important to tailor teaching to meet the needs of specific subgroups of trainees to ensure that specific learning needs are met.