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Online paediatrics learning project

Emma Breheny
1 August 2016

A shortage of physiotherapists with the skills and confidence to manage cerebral palsy in infants and children led Prue Morgan to apply for funding from the Pat Cosh Trust Fund to deliver an online learning package targeted at community and rural physiotherapists

‘We’re aware of a number of paediatric physiotherapists that, because of their location, struggle to find time and money for face to- face training. A number also work part-time or have paediatrics as a component of their case load, so it’s hard for them to prioritise professional development for that specific area,’ Prue explains.

There are also a number of paediatric physiotherapists who are working mothers, with competing demands on their time outside work hours, when much professional development takes place.

Flexible and affordable professional development was needed to develop the skills of these clinicians in managing cerebral palsy. Prue and a team of five physiotherapists, plus a project officer, built on two previous online learning packages developed through Monash Children’s Hospital to design a structured online learning program.

Run over four weeks, with a remote tutor and continuous assessment, the course delivered a new module to participants each week, with fortnightly assessment milestones. Following the course’s conclusion, participants could attend a face-to-face day to debrief or, if they were unable to travel, watch the video footage of the day.

‘Part-time, rural and remote practitioners were clear that this format allowed them to upskill in a time efficient manner, particularly in areas that they may not have been as familiar with,’ Prue says of their evaluation findings.

The course content covered outcome measures, movement disorders, gait correction and equipment prescription across the infant to adolescent continuum of cerebral palsy.

Reflecting on their self-perceived competence before and after the course, participants’ rankings had shifted upwards by 1 point on a scale of 1–4.

Since the project concluded at the end of 2014, 45 people have completed the online module with another 25 due to begin in July 2016.

The demand for flexible and convenient methods of professional development goes beyond physiotherapy. Janet Hough, a member of the project team, presented the model at a recent conference on building health workforce capacity in remote areas, while dieticians and nutritionists at Monash Children’s Hospital have built similar online learning modules for paediatric dietetics.

For those who might be considering applying for a grant, Prue recommends developing very clear timelines, engaging a working party with a variety of skillsets, using the strengths of working party members and clearly allocating tasks to each person.

The Pat Cosh Trust Fund will open applications for 2017 grants in September, with applications closing 2 November 2016. More information about applying will be online soon.


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