When I was a physical therapy student, I often had to read research articles and analyze the study design, results and impact on physical therapy practice. Evidence-based practice was ingrained in each of my courses and throughout my clinical experiences. One of my clinical instructors would turn to research literature to answer any questions I had. A few times in class, my classmates and I would stage a journal club and review the article together, in groups of 10 or less. I enjoyed discussing the papers, learning strategies to implement new techniques into my practice and learning from other therapists.
Fast forward to real life. I read most of my research articles either on my smartphone or in my monthly PT journal magazine. While my coworkers and I exchange treatment ideas and discuss patient cases, it certainly is not the same as a journal club with time set aside specifically for research and study. Journal clubs also provide a framework for discussion, and with the right host or leader the conversation can be efficient as well. Given the emphasis on evidence-based practice in physical therapy, the benefits of participating in a journal club are substantial to further promote quality care.
So, how can you become involved in a journal club?
Ask other local therapists. There are a few journal clubs in the Milwaukee area who meet monthly to discuss articles at some coffee shops. I know of both an orthopedic-based group of clinicians as well as a neuro group who have met consistently for years. Both of these groups are always welcoming to new attendees, as the attendance fluctuates each month simply due to scheduling conflicts with some of the members.
Ask local PT programs at colleges and universities. Around Milwaukee there are three physical therapy schools, some of which hold regular journal clubs hosted by the students. It's pretty easy to call the physical therapy department and inquire about their journal club status.
Start your own. This is always an option, although it does require a fair amount of organization, communication and time. One of my coworkers and I are starting a journal club in our department and as we begin discussing the format (patient scenario-based, article-based, CE course-based), as well as the method of communication (in-person club or via phone to include some of our satellite clinic therapists), I'm surprised how much thought and attention goes into creating the right environment for an effective journal club.
What do you think? Do you participate or host journal clubs? Have you learned any strategies to facilitate a good learning environment?