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Health systems research training enhances workplace research skills: a qualitative evaluation

Adams J, Schaffer A, Lewin S, Zwarenstein M, van der Walt H. J Contin Educ Health Prof. 2003; 23(4):210-20.


Introduction — In-service education is a widely used means of enhancing the skills of health service providers, for example, in undertaking research. However, the transfer of skills acquired during an education course to the workplace is seldom evaluated. The objectives of this study were to assess learner, teacher, and health service manager perceptions of the usefulness, in the work setting, of skills taught on a health systems research education course in South Africa and to assess the extent to which the course stimulated awareness and development of health systems research in the work setting.

Methods — The education course was evaluated using a qualitative approach. Respondents were selected for interview using purposive sampling. Interviews were conducted with 39 respondents, including all of the major stakeholders. The interviews lasted between 20 and 60 minutes and were conducted either face to face or over the telephone. Thematic analysis was applied to the data, and key themes were identified.

Results — The course demystified health systems research and stimulated interest in reading and applying research findings. The course also changed participants' attitudes to routine data collection and was reported to have facilitated the application of informal research or problem-solving methods to everyday work situations. However, inadequate support within the workplace was a significant obstacle to applying the skills learned.

Discussion — A 2-week intensive, experiential course in health systems research methods can provide a mechanism for introducing basic research skills to a wide range of learners. Qualitative evaluation is a useful approach for assessing the impacts of education courses.

Keywords: Research and statistical methods

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