Journal clubs are a great way to translate research into practice

Journal clubs are a continuing professional development activity where health professionals meet to appraise and discuss research articles. These discussions aim to facilitate the translation of research evidence into clinical practice. A Cochrane review has concluded that educational meetings, like journal clubs, can improve professional practice and healthcare outcomes for patients (Forsetlund et al 2009). Increasing knowledge and skills in evidence-based practice may also occur through participation in journal club discussions (Ilic et al 2020).

The four elements of a journal club are:

  1. Select and read a research article (or articles) that address an evidence-practice gap or highlight new findings. Participants may share in this selection process and should read the article prior to attending the journal club.
  2. Summarise the important points of the article (paying particular attention to the methods used, the main results, and the strengths and weaknesses) at the start of the journal club.
  3. Discuss the implications of the results. Participants decide whether implementation of the evidence would have a positive influence on clinical practice and explore possible barriers and facilitators.
  4. Devise strategies to implement the evidence into practice. For example, plans for audit and feedback to quantify current and future practice.

A key factor for the success of a journal club is forming a group of participants with shared or complementary interests who feel a sense of ownership of the club. Involving researchers, academics or statisticians may assist with building research knowledge and skills. The group could be comprised of a single profession or be multidisciplinary. It could occur in your workplace or outside work with your like-minded peers. With developments in electronic communication (eg, video conferencing), distance is no longer a barrier. Everyone can be involved, from students to professors. When the opportunity arises, you could involve guest speakers to add expert comment.

Two journal club formats in allied health (including physiotherapy) have been evaluated in a cluster randomised controlled trial (Wenke et al 2018). A TREAT (Tailoring Research Evidence And Theory) format was compared to a standard format. While there was no difference in evidence-based practice skills, attitudes, knowledge and practice between the two formats, a qualitative evaluation (Wenke et al 2019) identified some key factors that contribute to the sustainability of journal clubs. These factors were:

  • building research knowledge and skills
  • organising access to research experts
  • having an expectation from management that staff will attend
  • developing a team culture that values evidence-based practice
  • ensuring a close application to practice, and
  • the participants having ownership of the journal club.

Some key elements of a journal club that are commonly recommended (including in the TREAT format) are:

  1. Establishing a group of participants who have similar interests.
  2. Having an overarching goal and purpose for the journal club.
  3. Running the journal club regularly at the same time on a regular day, so that it becomes a fixture.
  4. Circulating the article (or articles) prior to meeting, with sufficient lead time for participants to read the article(s).
  5. Collaborating with researchers or academics for mentoring and support.
  6. Having a facilitator to help choose the articles and guide discussion.
  7. Using structured appraisal tools to evaluate the article(s).
  8. Adhering to principles of adult learning and using multi-faceted learning strategies.
  9. Putting evidence in the context of clinical practice and evaluating knowledge uptake informally or formally.
  10. Providing enticing refreshments.

We encourage PEDro users to get involved in a journal club (or review and refine your existing journal club) to help translate evidence into practice.

Articles cited in this blog:
Forsetlund L, et al. Continuing education meetings and workshops: effects on professional practice and health care outcomes. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2009;Issue 2
Ilic D, et al. The use of journal clubs to teach evidence-based medicine to health professionals: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Evid Based Med 2020 Jan 17:Epub ahead of print
Wenke RJ, et al. The effectiveness and feasibility of TREAT (Tailoring Research Evidence And Theory) journal clubs in allied health: a randomised controlled trial. BMC Med Educ 2018;18(104):Epub
Wenke R, et al. Factors that influence the sustainability of structured allied health journal clubs: a qualitative study. BMC Med Educ 2019;19(6):Epub

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