Assessing educational effectiveness: the impact of a specialist course on the delivery of care
An exploratory study was undertaken in South Wales to assess the changes in clinical practice brought about by a specialized pharmacology module designed for Community Mental Health Nurses (CMHNs), in our institution. The respondents were the seven CMHNs who completed the course in 1997 and returned to clinical practice, and seven CMHN comparators, matched on the basis of work experience and location. In order to assess the impact of the module, the practice, attitudes and knowledge of the respondents were investigated before and after the course and 6 months later, using semistructured interviews, nonparticipant observation and questionnaires. The three data sets were analysed using the constant-comparative method, and relevant themes were identified and refined. While we obtained some objective measures of positive educational impact, these should be considered in relation to contextual and confounding variables. Both reported and observed behaviours indicated that the main benefit from the course was increased awareness and monitoring of the side-effects of medication. Respondents had not implemented change uniformly; several factors determined how they modified working practices, including service pressures and the support of colleagues.