Thursday, March 31, 2011

Keeping up with Research

I think we can all agree that RESEARCH ROCKS . . . but how do we keep up with it all?!?! As a physical therapy student, I vowed to myself that I would “always” keep up with the latest research once I entered the working world. Journals, continuing education, conferences . . . I was going to do it all. Once classes, exams, papers and group projects were done, I thought I would have plenty of time to keep up with the research world. How could I possibly be busier than I was as a physical therapy student?!?!

After five years of working as a physical therapist, these thoughts make me laugh :-). I have come to realize that staying up-to-date with the latest research findings is a very personal and challenging journey for each of us. Finding a balance between family, friends, recreational activities and work can be demanding. With so many people, responsibilities, and activities filling each day, finding time to stay in touch with the research world can be difficult. It has taken me a few years of trial and error to figure out what works best for me. Here’s what I do:

· Skimming journal cover pages (JOSPT for example) as soon as I get them and highlighting the articles that are most relevant to the patients I am seeing currently. This helps me prioritize me reading/learning.

· Reading journal articles two days a week during lunch . . . often while riding a recumbent stationary bike. Starting to do this really helped me keep up with my journal reading.

· Attending continuing education courses and PT conferences as regularly as I can given time and $ constraints.

o Looking up journal articles cited by presenters at courses and conferences

o “Open Door” which is available to all APTA members is a great resource for finding journal articles in publications that you don't already receive

· Journal club – I work as one of two physical therapists at a university student health center. Putting together a journal club took some extra planning because our “Sports Medicine” journal club includes physical therapists, an athletic trainer, and primary care physicians. We meet once a month to discuss new articles and to work on our overall system of patient care.

· Talking “shop” with PT friends . . . sharing what we have learned

So fellow NPs, how do you do it? How do you keep up with the latest research while balancing family, friend, work, etc? I'd love some new ideas!


  1. Awesome post Gail! I think you do a really nice job of being practical about our time constraints while also maintaining enthusiasm and speaking from experience.

    Here's one thing I've learned not to do: buy a Nook. I hate to bash new technology. Obviously being a blogger makes me inclined to be an early adopter. But to be perfectly honest, e-readers, well at least the Nook, have a long way to go with streaming columns. I didn't want a glossy, color screen (Nook Color) because the battery life is crummy. But the Nook, while great for my current book, tends to mess up the sequencing of columns. You can't get much out of an article if the beginning starts with the middle...

    However, I'm hoping that by supporting the technology early on better generations are still to come. Our devices should be able to stream articles automatically and facilitate our consumption of the research.

    That's my 2 cents. What does everyone else think? What else could we do? Is the Kindle any better?


  2. RSS Feeds such as google reader are by far the best way to stay current and engaged. You can subscribe to journals, blogs, websites, etc. Without a doubt the best resource...

  3. Kyle, When do you read the feeds? On what device? Do you think we'll ever have a device that serves as a documentation system, clinical decision making aide, and journal reader? I've wondered what would happen if APTA tried to develop something like that and made it available to members. I know some clinics use mobile technology to increase efficiency/efficacy but I have little first hand experience. It seems like there is a huge opportunity to bridge data mining research and best practice initiatives on 'iPad' like devices.


  4. Ben > Good points. I usually engage google reader on computer. But, you can definitely download RSS reader apps for almost any smart phone. The nice thing about google reader is you can e-mail or share content (push to facebook/twitter) directly from google reader. Further, you can share within google reader with a comment if you wish. It makes for a nice integration and micro-blogging platform.

    I think full integration would be nice. If you use an online documentation system such as WebPT you can document on your iPad and have access to all the resources/apps available. Now, are they integrated together? No.

    I am in the process of writing a series of post discussing how to utilize technology to access and engage research> Check it out and comment: