Stepping into research

Longstanding program supports allied heath clinicians who are interested in research to build their skills and contribute to the evidence base in their own area

While most allied health clinicians – including physiotherapists, occupational therapists, dietitians, podiatrists and social workers – support evidence-based practice, making the step from clinical practice to clinical research can be daunting.

Professor Nick Taylor, Dr Katherine Harding and Professor Nora Shields have developed Stepping into Research, a program that supports allied heath clinicians who are interested in research to build their skills and contribute to the evidence base in their own area.

The program was established in 2006 at the Eastern Health ARCH, in response to survey data that found one in seven allied health clinicians were very interested in research, but did not possess the skills or experience to make the next step.

Stepping into Research provides the necessary support, using small group workshops and individual mentoring to introduce allied health clinicians to the process of conducting and writing up a systematic review of the literature.

It’s been a resounding success. “Four in 10 participants have published a systematic review after completing the program and one in 10 have enrolled in higher degrees by research at La Trobe University,” says Taylor. “Program participants also report that they have greater confidence in encouraging their colleagues to be more evidence-based in their practice.”

Taylor, Shields and Harding have recently translated the initiative into a ‘train the trainer’ program, to equip research leaders in other health services with the knowledge and resources to run Stepping into Research in their respective organisations.

“Our first instructor workshop included 16 participants from health services in Victoria, South Australia and Queensland,” says Taylor. “We will keep in contact through a community of practice and have plans to undertake more instructor workshops.”

“Our program demonstrates that clinicians can be equipped to conduct and publish systematic reviews, an important step into research,” adds Taylor. “It has also resulted in a range of outcomes that resonate with stakeholders. The affiliated University is encouraged by the rate of academic publications and new PhD candidates. Health service managers appreciate the professional development opportunity for staff, and participants and mentors note their development as a result of participating in the program.”

“We hope that patients will ultimately benefit from the direct evaluation of clinical evidence and the
creation of a culture within health organisations that values research.”

Learn more about the Academic and Research Collaborative in Health (ARCH).

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