Journal Club Helps Physical Therapists Keep Pace with New Research, Best Practices
By Stacie Jones
Each year, more than 2.5 million articles on the latest developments in medicine, science and technology are published in approximately 28,000 journals. For those in the medical field, trying to stay on top of this mountain of new information can feel like a constant uphill climb.
“It’s difficult for the average clinician to keep pace with the rapid speed at which things progress in the medical field,” said Weston Vik, physical therapist at Kootenai Health Rehabilitation Services. “We do our best to keep up with the latest guidelines, techniques and best practices, but it can be challenging to wade through all of the knowledge that’s out there to figure out what’s most relevant to us and our patients.”
Weston is working to make the masses of new medical literature a little less daunting for his fellow providers. Shortly after joining Kootenai Health two years ago, he began a journal club to help keep his physical therapist peers up to date on the latest trends and best practices in the field. The journal club meets monthly to critically evaluate pre-selected journal articles, exchange thoughts on the topics, and share ideas and strategies on how to apply the research to the care of their patients.
“It’s one thing to read the research, but meeting as a group to discuss and synthesize the article helps bring the topic to life and makes it more of a readily available tool that we can use in the care of our patients,” Weston said.
A primary goal of the journal club, Weston explains, is to encourage consistent use of evidence-based practice across the physical therapy team.
“There has been an explosion of research in the physical therapy field just in the last couple of decades,” he said. “We are learning more every day, and we want to make sure each one of our physical therapists is up to date and prepared to make the most of the knowledge that’s out there.”
Learning from Each Other
The journal club also serves as an excellent forum for clinicians to learn from each other.
“The club brings together people with a myriad of educational backgrounds and professional experiences,” Weston said. “It’s a great opportunity to educate each other in our own profession and elevate our level of practice and expertise as a team.”
Weston hopes to expand the journal club to include other Kootenai Health providers— including physicians, nurses, medical residents and therapists in other specialties—who also make decisions about physical therapy for patients.
“It takes a village to treat any one person,” Weston said. “I think it would be valuable to expand knowledge in our field and to build relationships with physicians, nurses and anyone else who might share in the treatment of that patient.”
Ultimately, it all points to better patient outcomes.
“This is what it’s all about: using the knowledge that’s out there to best serve the people we are treating,” Weston said. “Things are changing all the time. Our patients put their trust and faith in us to help them get better, and it’s our responsibility to know we are using our time with them as efficiently and effectively as possible.”