The goal of Continuing education (CE) is to promote ongoing competence in the areas of cognitive knowledge and clinical skills as well as to develop advanced skills to enhance professional practice. CE provides Certified Athletic trainers (ATs) the opportunity for professional growth through intellectual engagement in meaningful learning through formal activities (e.g., conferences, symposiums, and workshops). Furthermore, CE strives to foster a change in clinical decision-making and clinical behaviors so that patient care can be positively affected.
The purpose of this study was to examine the participation of ATs in continuing education and its perceived impact on clinical practice. Included in this study is an analysis of the selection process, motivation factors to participate, and an evaluation of barriers preventing participation. Furthermore, the study evaluated job setting characteristics that can positively or negatively influence implementation of new information into clinical practice.
The participants included athletic trainers employed within three distinct employment settings: college/university, high school, and spots medicine clinics. The study used a qualitative format, with formal interviews, member check, collection of documents, and a follow-up survey.
The underpinning philosophy of CE is to provide knowledge and skills that have a direct impact on clinical practice, clinical decision making, and patient care. Although some of this study’s findings study were consistent with the previous research on continuing education, several themes emerged, including (a) the contributing factors influencing the selection process, (b) the relationship between financial support and professional development, (c) the professional isolation of high school athletic trainers, and (d) the inability to select CE activities based on need.
Regardless of the employment setting, when possible, athletic trainers selected CE activities that furthered their knowledge base, skills, and abilities to provide a positive impact on the standard of care they provided to patients. Unfortunately, ATs felt that the timing of the CE activity and cost for those who did not receive financial reimbursement for professional development was more influential than topic or format.