RH35 Online Educational Modules To Increase MS Knowledge For Physical Therapists

Thursday, May 30, 2013
Jennifer Tooher, SPT , University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Angela Rosenberg, PT, DPH , University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Karen McCulloch, PT, PhD, NCS , University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Liz Waddell, SPT , University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC

Background: There is consensus in the medical community that physical therapy (PT) is beneficial for managing symptoms and maintaining function in people with multiple sclerosis (MS.) Research efforts aim to identify best practices for patients with MS (PwMS). However, it is difficult for physical therapists to keep current on evidence-based practice (EBP) for PwMS, and there are limited continuing education programs specifically related to PT for MS. The lack of resources is particularly problematic when compounded with other barriers including high travel costs, limited access to research databases, time constraints, and low EBP self-efficacy. Online educational resources offer a flexible, inexpensive, and convenient opportunity for physical therapists to access continuing education.

Objectives: The purpose of this initiative was to enhance the knowledge of physical therapists who treat PwMS through the creation of focused online educational modules. Module content highlights evidence-based research related to PT evaluation and interventions for MS. The desired outcome is to increase PT knowledge when treating PwMS, for both the physical therapist who specializes in neurology or the PT who only periodically sees patients with MS.

Methods: An initial needs assessment survey was sent to physical therapists to guide in the development of educational modules. The modules focus on two separate needs: educating physical therapists who only occasionally see PwMS, and improving the knowledge of clinicians who have larger populations of PwMS and are seeking more in-depth information.

Results: Seventy six physical therapists completed the needs assessment survey. Eighty four percent indicated an interest in learning more about MS, and 75% indicated an interest in receiving the educational modules. The evidence-based modules include a disease overview, common symptoms, impairments, evaluation considerations, and interventions for PwMS. Module content and strategies to effectively promote continuing education about MS were evaluated after physical therapists completed the modules. The effectiveness of the modules was evaluated using pretest and posttest assessments.

Conclusions: Online educational modules can serve as effective continuing education resources about MS for physical therapists in order to improve PT knowledge and treatment for PwMS.