Physical Therapy Continuing Education Courses Should Be Based On Evidence
To Provide The Greatest Value To Participating Therapists
Physical therapy continuing education is one of the most integral facets of the practice. Although it is a requirement in most states for retaining one’s license, physical therapists should view continuing education as an ongoing learning opportunity that allows them to keep up with the continuously changing and evolving landscape to provide the best clinical care possible to patients.
Therefore, continuing education should be of the highest standard, possessing qualities that ensure the courses are worth the physical therapists’ time and money. Perhaps chief among these qualities is that physical therapy continuing education instructs on methods, techniques, and interventions that are based on the most current evidence and clinical guidelines. Yet it’s not guaranteed that all continuing education courses for physical therapists is strictly evidence based, which may degrade the value of these courses and leave therapists searching for those that do.
Grading the current continuing education landscap
With this in mind, a study was conducted to determine how many physical therapy continuing education courses taught interventions that were supported by evidence. To accomplish this, researchers conducted a systematic assessment of all publicly available data for orthopedic and sports physical therapy continuing education courses available in the U.S. in 2020. To be included, courses needed to provide education specifically about an intervention designed to treat a musculoskeletal disorder in adult populations, while courses not focused on specific interventions were excluded.
A hierarchy was used to grade the interventions being taught in identified courses, and an intervention was deemed “evidence based” if it either aligned with relevant clinical practice guidelines or a systematic review that supported it with at least moderate level evidence. Any conflicts between guidelines and systematic reviews were resolved primarily by favoring the most recent guideline or systematic review.
More than half of courses were not evidence based
The systematic assessment identified 319 courses that were eligible for inclusion in the final review, with most of these courses (78.7%) teaching only one category of intervention and 16.9% teaching two categories of interventions. More than half of the courses reviewed (52.7%) taught interventions that were not supported by a clinical practice guideline or systematic review. In addition, interventions that were not recommended by a clinical practice guideline (65.8%) were rarely supported by a systematic review (20.0%). Courses that taught interventions categorized as modalities were the least likely to be supported by evidence (30.5%), while those teaching soft skills were the most likely to be supported (82.9%)
These findings are disconcerting, as they reveal that about 1 in 2 physical therapy continuing education courses provides instructions on interventions that are not supported by the latest evidence. This trend can have numerous downstream effects, as physical therapists often rely more on continuing education than published research articles to shape their practice patterns. Therefore, patients could potentially be undergoing unsupported interventions in their course of care, which could prevent them from receiving the greatest benefits from treatment.
Applied Continuing Education (ACE) a continuing education company firmly committed to offering courses that are based on the latest evidence, ensuring that the physical therapists who complete our courses will be providing the highest standard of care to their patients for the conditions we cover. We currently offer two courses (“Weight Management for Rehab Patients: Crucial Skills for PTs and OTs to Help Patients with Weight Management” and “Shoulder Pain and Dysfunction: Effective Therapy for the Treatment of Common Shoulder Disorders,” both of which are built on a strong base of research. For more information, explore the ACE website or contact us at 781-229-8011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.