Multiple factors influence a physical therapist’s decision to seek out and read research literature, according to a research report published in the October issue of Physical Therapy (PTJ), the scientific journal of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), Alexandria, Va.

A survey questionnaire completed by physical therapists providing stroke management in Ontario, Canada, measured factors that influenced how often in a typical month physical therapists searched online bibliographic databases and how often they read or reviewed research literature related to their clinical practice. One of the key correlates is membership in a professional physical therapy association.

"Searching and reading the research literature is essential for optimizing the quality of physical therapist practice," said physical therapist and lead researcher Nancy M. Salbach, PhD, MSc, BScPT, BSc, assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Toronto. "Identifying the factors that influence engagement in searching and reading the research literature will enhance understanding of the demographics and practice environments of therapists who undertake these activities, and what actions can be taken to enhance the performance of these activities in the clinical setting."

Results of the survey indicated that about 38% of physical therapist responders searched the research literature online, and about 73% reported reading the research literature two or more times in a typical month.

For those who conducted literature searches, contributing factors included being male, participation in research, self-efficacy for implementing evidence-based practice, perceived support of use of research in the place of employment, and Internet access at work to bibliographic databases. Factors associated with reading research literature included membership in a professional physical therapy organization, research participation, self-efficacy for implementing evidence-based practice, perceived support of use of research in the workplace, perceptions that literature findings are useful in daily practice, and perceptions that walking interventions evaluated in the stroke rehabilitation research literature are relevant to clinical practice.

Variables related to evidence-based behaviors in the final adjusted model were individual characteristics such as membership in a professional organization that provides access to a research journal subscription, research participation, and self-efficacy. According to Salbach and colleagues, these findings emphasize the importance of work environments that facilitate access to research—online and through memberships in professional organizations—and promoting research among physical therapists. Continuing education may help increase self-efficacy through mastery experiences, observing others, positive feedback, and other techniques. Finally, optimizing relevance to clinical practice of interventions that are subject to research investigation may enhance physical therapists’ use of these interventions.

[Source: APTA]