Objective This study aimed to discover what the family doctors who attended an annual refresher course wished to obtain from participating in the event and what their response was to evidence that doctor behaviour is not changed by such programmes.
Design The study used the qualitative method of in-depth interviews.
Setting Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and the surrounding area.
Participants The informants for the study were a sample of 6 family doctors who attended the 50th Annual Refresher Course for Family Physicians, held in April 2001 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Method In-depth interviews with the participants were conducted before and after they attended the annual refresher course. The doctors had pre-registered for the 3-day course. They were purposely selected to obtain diversity of gender, year of graduation from medical school and practice location.
Results The doctors interviewed had 3 main reasons for attending the refresher course: to obtain information or to be updated; to be reassured that their practice behaviour was within accepted guidelines, and to hear from and interact with the specialists who gave presentations. All the participants in the study were able to name changes they had made as the result of attending a similar type of programme in the past and were sceptical of findings that practice behaviour did not change as a result of traditional continuing medical education (CME).
Conclusions Despite current support for interactive and practice-linked educational activities, the doctors in this study valued the input of the experts who lectured at the course. These doctors were not prepared to accept the currently held precept that their behaviour did not change as a result of attendance at traditional CME programmes.