Experiences of general practitioners and practice nurses of training courses in evidence-based health care: A qualitative study
Background. Clinical governance will require general practitioners (GPs) and practice nurses (PNs) to become competent in finding, appraising, and implementing research evidence - the skills of evidence-based health care (EBHC). Aim. To report the experiences of GPs and PNs in training in this area. Method. We held 30 in-depth, semi-structured interviews throughout North Thames region with three groups of informants: primary care practitioners recruited from the mailing lists of established EBHC courses; organizers and teachers on these courses; and educational advisers from Royal Colleges, universities, and postgraduate departments. Detailed qualitative analysis was undertaken to identify themes from each of these interview groups. Results. At the time of the fieldwork for this study (late 1997), remarkably few GPs or PNs had attended any formal EBHC courses in our region. Perceived barriers to attendance on courses included inconsistency in marketing terminology, cultural issues (e.g. EBHC being perceived as one aspect of rapid and unwanted change in the workplace), lack of confidence in the subject matter (especially mathematics and statistics), lack of time, and practical and financial constraints. Our interviews suggested, however, that the principles and philosophy of EBHC are beginning to permeate traditional lecture-based continuing medical education courses, and consultant colleagues increasingly seek to make their advice 'evidence based'. Conclusion. We offer some preliminary recommendations for the organizers of EBHC courses for primary care. These include offering a range of flexible training, being explicit about course content, recognizing differences in professional culture between primary and secondary care and between doctors and nurses, and addressing issues of funding and accreditation at national level. Introducing EBHC through traditional topic-based postgraduate teaching programmes may be more acceptable and more effective than providing dedicated courses in its theoretical principles.