Background: There has been limited focus on evaluation of continuing education (CEU) and continuing medical education (CME) in the fields of gerontology and geriatrics. The increasing elderly population combined with the limited clinical workforce highlights the need for more effective methods of continuing education. Traditionally, outcomes of CEU and CME programs relied on self-report measures of satisfaction with the scope and quality of the training, but more recent efforts in this area have focused on outcomes indicating level of improved skills and attitudinal changes of medical and allied health professionals towards working with elderly patients in need of assistance.
Methods: This study focused on the use of “Action Plans” as a tool to stimulate changes in clinical programs following training, along with attempting to determine typical barriers to change and how to deal with them. More than 600 action plans were obtained from participants attending various continuing education classes providing training on care of patients with dementia (PWD) and their families. Both qualitative and quantitative methods, including logistic regression models were used to analyze the data.
Results: Three months following training 366 participants reported whether they were successful in implementing their action plans and identified factors that either facilitated or hindered their goal to make changes outlined in their action plans. Despite the low response rate of program participants, the “action plan” (with follow up to determine degree of completion) appeared to stimulate effective behavioral changes in clinicians working with dementia patients and their family members. Seventy three percent of the respondents reported at least some level of success in implementing specific changes. Specific details about barriers to change and how to overcome them are discussed.
Conclusions: Our results support that developing and writing action plans can be a useful tool to self- monitor behavioral change among trainees over time.