Introduction It is essential that allied health practice decisions are underpinned by the best available evidence. Therefore, effective training needs to be provided for allied health professionals to do this. However, little is known about how evidence-based practice training programs for allied health professionals are delivered, the elements contained within them, how learning outcomes are measured or the effectiveness of training components in improving learning outcomes.
Methods We conducted a systematic literature review to identify effectiveness of evidence-based practice training programs and their components for allied health professionals. Key words of evidence-based practice programs OR journal clubs OR critical appraisal AND allied health OR physiotherapists OR occupational therapists OR speech pathologists AND knowledge OR skills OR attitudes OR behaviour were applied to all available databases. Papers were critically appraised using the Joanna Briggs Institute and McMaster tools and the checklist of recommendations for educational interventions. Data were extracted on participants, training program components and underpinning theories, methods of delivery and learning outcomes. Data were synthesised using a combination of narrative and realist synthesis approaches.
Results Six relevant studies (four randomised controlled trials and two before-and-after studies) reported on the effectiveness of evidence-based practice training programs for evidence-based practice for groups of health professionals. Specifically, only three of these studies (one randomised controlled trial and two before-and-after studies) reported on allied health professionals (physiotherapists, occupational therapists and social workers). Among these three studies on allied health, outcomes were variably measured, largely reporting on knowledge, skills, attitudes and/or behaviours. Significant changes in knowledge and skills were reported in all studies. Only the social work study, which reassessed outcomes after 3 months, reported significant changes in attitudes and behaviours. Training took from 3 hours to 2 days. While there was information on training program components, there was no evidence of effectiveness related to learning outcomes.
Conclusion Overall, there is limited research regarding training of allied health professionals in evidence-based practice and learning outcomes. From the limited evidence base, there was consistent evidence that any training significantly influenced knowledge, skills and attitudes, irrespective of the allied health discipline. There was little information, however, regarding how to change or measure behaviours. This review cannot recommend components of training for allied health professionals in evidence-based practice, which significantly improve learning outcomes.