Evaluating evidence-based health care teaching and learning in the undergraduate human nutrition; occupational therapy; physiotherapy; and speech, language and hearing therapy programs at a sub-Saharan African academic institution
CITATION: Schoonees, A., Rohwer, A. & Young, T. 2017. Evaluating evidence-based health care teaching and learning in the undergraduate human nutrition; occupational therapy; physiotherapy; and speech, language and hearing therapy programs at a sub-Saharan African academic institution. PLoS ONE, 12(2): e0172199, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0172199.
The original publication is available at http://journals.plos.org/plosone
Background: It is important that all undergraduate healthcare students are equipped with evidence-based health care (EBHC) knowledge and skills to encourage evidence-informed decision-making after graduation. We assessed EBHC teaching and learning in undergraduate human nutrition (HN); occupational therapy (OT); physiotherapy (PT); and speech, language and hearing therapy (SPLH) programs at a sub-Saharan African university. Methods: We used methodological triangulation to obtain a comprehensive understanding of EBHC teaching and learning: (1) through a document review of module guides, we identified learning outcomes related to pre-specified EBHC competencies; we conducted (2) focus group discussions and interviews of lecturers to obtain their perspectives on EBHC and on EBHC teaching and learning; and we (3) invited final year students (2013) and 2012 graduates to complete an online survey on EBHC attitudes, self-perceived EBHC competence, and their experience of EBHC teaching and learning. Results: We reviewed all module outlines (n = 89) from HN, PT and SLHT. The OT curriculum was being revised at that time and could not be included. Six lecturers each from HN and OT, and five lecturers each from PT and SLHT participated in the focus groups. Thirty percent (53/176) of invited students responded to the survey. EBHC competencies were addressed to varying degrees in the four programs, although EBHC teaching and learning mostly occurred implicitly. Learning outcomes referring to EBHC focused on enabling competencies (e.g., critical thinking, biostatistics, epidemiology) and were concentrated in theoretical modules. Key competencies (e.g., asking questions, searching databases, critical appraisal) were rarely addressed explicitly. Students felt that EBHC learning should be integrated throughout the four year study period to allow for repetition, consolidation and application of knowledge and skills. Lecturers highlighted several challenges to teaching and practising EBHC, including lack of evidence relevant to the African context and lack of time within curricula.