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What supports physiotherapists’ use of research in clinical practice? A qualitative study in Sweden

Petra Dannapfel*, Anneli Peolsson and Per Nilsen

Author Affiliations

Department of Medicine and Health, Linköping University, Linköping, SE 581 83, Sweden

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Implementation Science 2013, 8:31  doi:10.1186/1748-5908-8-31

Published: 14 March 2013

Abstract

Background

Evidence-based practice has increasingly been recognized as a priority by professional physiotherapy organizations and influential researchers and clinicians in the field. Numerous studies in the past decade have documented that physiotherapists hold generally favorable attitudes to evidence-based practice and recognize the importance of using research to guide their clinical practice. Research has predominantly investigated barriers to research use. Less is known about the circumstances that actually support use of research by physiotherapists. This study explores the conditions at different system levels that physiotherapists in Sweden perceive to be supportive of their use of research in clinical practice.

Methods

Patients in Sweden do not need a referral from a physician to consult a physiotherapist and physiotherapists are entitled to choose and perform any assessment and treatment technique they find suitable for each patient. Eleven focus group interviews were conducted with 45 physiotherapists, each lasting between 90 and 110 minutes. An inductive approach was applied, using topics rather than questions to allow the participants to generate their own questions and pursue their own priorities within the framework of the aim. The data were analyzed using qualitative content analysis.

Results

Analysis of the data yielded nine favorable conditions at three system levels supporting the participant’s use of research in clinical practice: two at the individual level (attitudes and motivation concerning research use; research-related knowledge and skills), four at the workplace level (leadership support; organizational culture; research-related resources; knowledge exchange) and three at the extra-organizational level (evidence-based practice guidelines; external meetings, networks, and conferences; academic research and education).

Conclusions

Supportive conditions for physiotherapists’ use of research exist at multiple interdependent levels, including the individual, workplace, and extra-organizational levels. Research use in physiotherapy appears to be an interactive and interpretative social process that involves a great deal of interaction with various people, including colleagues and patients.

Keywords:
Physical therapy; Evidence-based practice; Research use; System levels; Attitudes; Clinical practice