Most health professions, including occupational therapy, have made the application of evidence-based practice a desired competency and professional responsibility. Despite the increasing emphasis on evidence-based practice for improving patient outcomes, there are numerous research-practice gaps in the health professions. In addition to efforts aimed at promoting evidence-based practice with clinicians, there is a strong impetus for university programs to design curricula that will support the development of the knowledge, attitudes, skills and behaviours associated with evidence-based practice. Though occupational therapy curricula in North America are becoming increasingly focused on evidence-based practice, research on students’ attitudes towards evidence-based practice, their perceptions regarding the integration and impact of this content within the curricula, and the impact of the curriculum on their readiness for evidence-based practice is scarce. The present study examined occupational therapy students’ perceptions towards the teaching and assessment of evidence-based practice within a professional master’s curriculum and their self-efficacy for evidence-based practice.
The study used a mixed methods explanatory sequential design. The quantitative phase included a cross-sectional questionnaire exploring attitudes towards evidence-based practice, perceptions of the teaching and assessment of evidence-based practice and evidence-based practice self-efficacy for four cohorts of students enrolled in the program and a cohort of new graduates. The questionnaire was followed by a focus group of senior students aimed at further exploring the quantitative findings.
All student cohorts held favourable attitudes towards evidence-based practice; there was no difference across cohorts. There were significant differences with regards to perceptions of the teaching and assessment of evidence-based practice within the curriculum; junior cohorts and students with previous education had less favourable perceptions. Students’ self-efficacy for evidence-based practice was significantly higher across cohorts. Four main themes emerged from the focus group data: (a) Having mixed feelings about the value of evidence-based practice (b) Barriers to the application of evidence-based practice; (c) Opposing worlds and (d) Vital and imperfect role of the curriculum.
This study provides important data to support the design and revision of evidence-based practice curricula within professional rehabilitation programs.