Year

2013

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of Education

Abstract

This research examined a fundamental aspect of delivery of high quality healthcare – the professional knowledge updating practice of health professionals. While prior studies have investigated aspects of professional knowledge updating, such as information sources utilised, factors influencing the level of activity or workplace access to needed information sources, there remains a need for an integrated investigative framework. This study adopted Engeström’s (2001) Activity System model as a framework to concurrently examine the contemporaneous value and use of electronic and non-electronic information sources for updating professional knowledge, as well as the factors that afford or constrain use of and workplace access to these tools. Each profession has their own unique disciplinary knowledge, whereby the information sources that disseminate new knowledge are contextually bound. The group selected for study was the Medical Radiation Science (MRS) profession.

The study was implemented using a two-phase sequential mixed methods design. Phase 1 adopted a qualitative methodology. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 28 participants representing four distinct areas of specialisation within the MRS profession: nuclear medicine, radiation therapy, radiography and sonography. Phase 1 sought to establish what information sources were utilised by MRS professionals to update their professional knowledge and to identify the perceived value and use of these sources. The findings from Phase 1 were used to inform Phase 2, which involved the development and administration of a questionnaire to Australian MRS professionals. The resultant participation rate was N=362, representing 31.7% of the posted questionnaires. Phase 2 sought to provide a descriptive account of professional knowledge updating practice within the MRS profession and establish factors influencing use of and workplace access to primary information sources for updating knowledge.

The findings from this study identified that the primary information sources for updating professional knowledge, in ranked order of importance, were: seminars, conferences, Internet, books, electronic journals, health and medical databases, print journals, formal study and journal club (χ 2 = 509.994, df = 8, p < .001). This study also provided baseline data on the areas of knowledge updated by MRS professionals. The majority of survey respondents reported that they seek current information on: medical diseases/ pathology (79.2%, n=282), anatomy (65.4%, n=233), new technologies (63.2%, n=225), procedure or treatment techniques (62.6%, n=223) and professional issues (52.5%, n=187).

Statistically significant positive relationships were observed between use of information sources to update professional knowledge and enrolment in a CPD program, membership of a professional society, greater physical access and greater effective access in the workplace to the information source. More frequent use of Internet search engines (p

This research offers a rich model of professional knowledge updating theorised as a learning activity mediated by information sources occurring within institutional settings that can support or constrain the level of activity. A number of policy and practice recommendations have been derived from the results of this study, which aim to support the pursuit of best practice in professional knowledge updating within and across organisational settings.

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