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The problem of implementing valid research results in nursing practice is well known. Despite an accumulating body of knowledge about the effectiveness of some nursing interventions, a gap often exists between what is known and what is practised.
Continuing professional education has been promoted as one way to bridge the gap between research and practice so that patients may benefit.1, 2 Davis et al described continuing medical education as the longest educational phase in the career of a physician, and this probably applies to other health professionals also.3 The term “continuing professional education”, however, often conjures up images of traditional lectures by “experts” in dark theatres. A more encompassing description might be “any and all ways by which (health professionals) learn and change after formal training is completed”.4
This editorial will summarise what is known about the effectiveness of continuing professional education/behaviour change strategies, and make suggestions for choosing appropriate activities.
Evaluation of behavioural change strategies
Several systematic reviews of a broad range of interventions to improve health professional practice in general,2, 5–7 and nursing practice specifically,8 have been conducted. Although most reviews reported some improvement in practice, the importance of the change was not always clear.
One systematic review has focused specifically on the effectiveness of continuing …