Occupational Therapists' Perceptions of the Value of Research

Article excerpt

Appropriate allocation of resources has become a growing issue in health care because people working on the frontlines are grappling with how to provide quality care in the context of burgeoning caseloads (Canadian Institute of Health Information, 2010). Concurrently, a shift has taken place to a knowledge based economy and research integration into practice is promoted as an important tool to improve the delivery of efficient, evidence-based, quality health care (Eccles & Mittman, 2006; Metzler & Metz, 2010). However, this shift to incorporate research findings into health care practice continues to be difficult to achieve (Ginsburg, Lewis, Zackheim, & Casebeer, 2007). Although the concept of evidence-based practice (EBP) has been embraced by the health professions, the practice of incorporating research based evidence into practice has been shown to be less than adequate and requiring further study (Novak & McIntyre, 2010).

The main problems with incorporating evidence into practice have been reported to include a lack of time and large workloads, as well as difficulty accessing and critiquing the literature (Bennett et al., 2003; Sudsawad, 2005). However, even when these concerns have been addressed, health care service providers still do not appear to routinely refer to research when they have a clinical problem or utilize the research for ongoing professional development (Egan et al., 2004; McCluskey & Lovarini, 2005). The reason this problem persists remains elusive. Pravikoff, Tanner, and Pierce (2005) conducted a large scale, quantitative study with nurses to explore the nurses' readiness to adopt EBP. They found that the nurses were not always positive about applying research to their practice. The researchers suggested that individual attitudes towards the value of research may be a possible explanation for these results (Pravikoff et al., 2005).

Similarly, occupational therapists' perceptions of the value of research may be part of the knowledge translation challenge for the discipline. In occupational therapy, as EBP has been introduced in various settings, challenges in the process of translating new knowledge into practice have become evident (Kielhofner, 2005). How research is viewed and valued by occupational therapists in

relation to their practice can potentially provide insights that are useful to inform the knowledge translation process. Therefore, this research will seek to respond to the following questions: What are occupational therapists' perceptions of the value of research and what elements influence their perceptions of the value of research? The methodology was a qualitative, exploratory study and data were obtained through interviews with ten occupational therapists.

Literature review

Evidence-based practice requires translation and uptake of knowledge from research and other sources. Knowledge translation (KT) is defined by the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) as "a dynamic and iterative process that includes synthesis, dissemination, exchange and ethically-sound application of knowledge" (CIHR, 2009, para.1). Knowledge translation has been examined in four quantitative studies involving occupational therapists (Cameron, Ballantyne, Kulbitsky, Morgolis-Gal, Daugherty, & Ludwig 2005; Gustafsson & Yates, 2009; McCluskey & Lovarini, 2005; Novak & McIntyre, 2010). These studies illustrate the ongoing challenges associated with knowledge translation and the incorporation of evidence into practice.

Cameron et al. (2005) concluded in their survey of 512 occupational therapists that only a minority utilized evidence in their clinical decisions. The authors suggested that part of the difficulty in utilizing evidence in practice may be related to a lack of skills for utilizing research. A different approach was taken in an Australian study conducted by Gustafsson and Yates (2009) examining the uptake of research evidence by 55 occupational therapists working in the area of stroke rehabilitation. …