Zimmerman, Sonia Susan; Ph.D.
Program of Education;
College of Human Development and Education; North Dakota State University
Occupational Therapists Learning to Practice with Evidence: A Qualitative Study
Major Professor: Dr. Kathy Enger
This dissertation is the culmination of a qualitative research study of evidence-based practicing occupational therapists. The purpose of this research was to examine perceptions of the learning conditions (i.e., personal, professional, and organizational) related to the occupational therapy practitioner’s learning about evidence-based practice.
Using a grounded-theory approach, this research study addressed the following research questions: (a) How does the occupational therapist practitioner perceive the learning conditions in regard to becoming an evidence-based practitioner? (b) Does the therapist experience the learning conditions as enablers or inhibitors of learning about evidence-based practice? (c) What strategies do therapists employ to manage inhibiting conditions for learning? (d) What learning strategies do practitioners use to convert evidence-based research into practice?
Twelve peer-nominated occupational therapists were selected for personal interviews. Data analysis was completed using the constant comparison analysis method of emergent categories to arrive at themes of interest. Themes identified include therapist qualities, evidence-based practice variability, workplace influence, and therapist education. The occupational therapists interviewed for this research are conscientious therapists who value evidence-based practice and actively seek to continue their learning. The range of evidence-based practice activities includes the use of research-based assessment tools, literature searches, practice guidelines, and participation in research.
The workplace supports and inhibits therapist learning and application of evidence-based practice methods. Research-intensive organizations provide the strongest level of support for evidence-based practice. Occupational therapist learning activities are diverse and take place in and outside the workplace. Workplace education has strong potential for supporting occupational therapists’ evidence-based practice. Therapists’ statements n regard to learning goals for professional development reflect the therapists’ level of experience with evidence-based practice.
The themes and supporting data led the researcher to the following conclusions:
(a) Occupational therapists understand the need to actively incorporate research evidence into daily practice as a means to continued competency; (b) Workplace conditions influence the therapist’s ability to seek and acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to practice evidence-based occupational therapy; and (c) Learning experiences designed to develop evidence-based practitioners need to be transformative in nature in order to effectively change practice.