Curricula changes in physical therapist education programs in Canada emphasize evidence-based practice skills, including literature retrieval and evaluation. Do graduates use these skills in practice? The aim of this study was to evaluate the use of research information in the clinical decision making of therapists with different years of experience and evidence-based practice preparation. Perceptions about evidence-based practice were explored qualitatively. Eighty physical therapists representing 4 different graduating cohorts participated in interviews focused on 2 clinical scenarios. Participants had varying years of clinical experience (range=1-15 years) and academic knowledge of evidence-based practice skills. Therapists discussed the effectiveness of interventions related to the scenarios and identified the sources of information used to reach decisions. Participants also answered general questions related to evidence-based practice knowledge. Recent graduates demonstrated better knowledge of evidence-based practice skills compared with therapists with 6 to 15 years of clinical experience. However, all groups used clinical experience most frequently as their source of information for clinical decisions. Research evidence was infrequently included in decision making.
The results suggest a knowledge-to-practice gap; graduates are not using the new skills to inform their practice. Tailoring academic evidence-based activities more to the time constraints of clinical practice may help students to be more successful in applying evidence in practice. Academic programs need to do more to create and nurture environments in both academic and clinical settings to ensure students practice using evidence-based practice skills across settings.