Choosing the RIGHT workshop to Attend. Here are the tips

There are myriad of workshops and courses being bombarded in the Physiotherapy profession. With this exponential outburst in workshops across the world, it’s prudent to discern, which workshop is apt for your clinical practice. Choosing the right Workshop to attend is a tricky decision. There are loads on offer, all over the world, but you obviously want to pick the one that is going to meet the specific needs of your area of interest and to make sure you get as much value from them as possible.
  1. Does the workshop has clearly stated goals and objectives?
The workshop must have clear goals and objectives. Many workshops are a waste of time because there’s no clear goal kept at the center of the discussion. Goals mean that the participants must know, what they will learn or can do, after attending that particular workshop. Make sure whether you will be eligible to practice the technique after completing the course. The technique that you are going to learn should be within your scope of practice and must fall within your jurisdiction.
  1. Is this workshop for me?
Choose the workshop in pertinent to your field of practice. If you are a sports physio and if you attend an NDT workshop, it is an utter waste of time. Even if the topic attracts you, make sure the contents of the workshop is on par with your clinical expertise or requirements. Some workshops are too basic for a seasoned Physiotherapist as the stuff demonstrated and talked will be great for a newly qualified or junior physios but a bore to a seasoned therapist. So choose the workshop wisely and see if it is relevant to your practice. Contact the organizers to check the intricate details of the workshop to come to a decision. This will avoid a waste of time and money.
  1. Who is the Instructor and what is his reputation in teaching similar courses?
The next thing you want to consider is, who is going to speak or who the instructor of the workshop is. Most workshop advertisement will have the speaker’s name. Do a little background check on their teaching experience, how many workshops has he taken earlier on the same topic. Go to his website or YouTube channel and view the videos, testimonials, blogs, etc. This will give you a fair idea about the resource person’s experience, his teaching skills, knowledge in his field, etc.  It does not mean novice teachers are less skillful, because all highly regarded teachers were a novice at the beginning of their careers.
The Instructor should have a strong passion and in-depth knowledge in the subject and conveys that with a passion to others. Good Instructors will motivate others to learn, guide them on how to learn for themselves in a manner that is relevant, meaningful and memorable.
  1. How is the research support for the technique that is taught in the course?
We have to admit that there is no one technique in physiotherapy that has irrefutable solid Level 1 evidence. But lack of evidence does not mean a lack of effect. It is simply unrealistic to control all the variables to prove the superiority of one technique over others. At the same time, we should be cautious of snake oil type of treatment. One should critically evaluate the available studies and decide whether there are sufficient studies available to back up the technique. It is the responsibility of the resource person or the organizer to furnish the available research well ahead of the course for the participants to decide on it. Provided there is an adequate number of randomized controlled trials (RCT) with a few systematic reviews in support of the techniques, you can consider taking the course. Some techniques are new in the field which may take some time to get more researches done. In such cases, you decide based on the available case series and the face value of the technique.
  1. Obtain feedback from earlier participants.
Check out and get feedback from previous attendees on how engaging the presenter was during the course. Check whether he was encouraging the participants to ask questions. If the speaker is new to the field, whom you haven’t heard of before, you could do a little research online and see if you could find any videos or slides from previous talks they’ve done to see if they are presenting on those topics with clarity and content in their speech. Workshops nowadays are hugely marketed to make it compulsive to the participants. But after attending a course, participants would realize, it is not worth it. Some workshops are beautifully presented by a charming teacher, but the clinical utility would be less. So don’t fail to get feedback from the previous participants on whether the skill they learned is still used in their clinic.
  1. Is the Instructor a clinician or a teaching faculty?
Some Instructors are full-time workshop presenters and they don’t do justice to their clinical practice. Since they are busy teaching, they seriously lack real-time patient experience. This is dangerous as they fail to test their techniques every day on their patients. So they can’t understand the pros and cons of their technique and soon they will get outdated and will continue to have a strong bias towards their technique without realizing that his technique has less clinical efficacy. This creates the “Guru” culture propagating what they teach is right largely on outdated evidence. A good instructor must be a full-time clinician, who at least see 8 – 10 patients every day. If the Instructor is working in a college as a teaching faculty, then most probably they are not seeing patients because they are mostly teaching and covering the syllabus. Teaching BPT is different from treating patients.
The likelihood of an expert clinician being an expert teacher his high than an expert teacher being an expert clinician.
7. How many papers the Instructor published in indexed journals?
Apart from teaching, the instructors must be motivated to do research and he must truly put his method of treatment under scientific scrutiny. He must be publishing studies in peer-reviewed indexed journals to prove to the world that his methods of treatment are testable and having research support. As a clinician-researcher, it is indeed hard to do a true RCT due to various known factors compared to a full- time researcher. But at least case series or case studies should be done regularly. Only a researcher will tend to critically evaluate any treatment methods. If the researcher teaches a technique, he tends to eliminate all sorts of bias and control all variables and tries to attribute the obtained pain relief is truly due to treatment effect. Hence if a researcher clinician teaches a technique there should be an element of truth in it.
  1. Does the Instructor continuous professional support after the course?
 The workshop, which provides support even after the course will set a platform for future learning experiences. After the workshop, participants must be able to communicate with the instructor, at least by mail or message services. It may not be possible for all instructors as few are very busy. Hence the instructor must have an online platform (Facebook page or WhatsApp group) by which the participants must be able to discuss to the instructor as well as to other participants. In this way, they can continue clarifying doubts and keep updating with new developments. Check with the organizers whether post-workshop educational support will be given or not.
Continuous professional development through workshops is vital to our field to progress and provide efficient healthcare to our patients. If not these workshops, the standard of physiotherapy care would not have improved to what it is now. Only by workshops, Physiotherapists are updating their knowledge and skills. There are many good courses and workshops out there but at the same time, don’t fall for the workshops which are overshadowed by big marketing, money-grabbing machines, which are advertised regularly nowadays.
We at APTER Institute do also host workshops and courses to keen, eager minds wanting more information and knowledge. What we hope we are doing differently is:-
  • We don’t claim that we are “Masters” or “Leaders” or that we have answers for all.
  • We do not mislead by claiming that our courses and workshops are internationally certified unless it’s really from an International provider.
  • What we do is try to enthuse, excite and explain to others effectively on the subject through evidence-led therapy and bridge any gaps with our clinical experiences.
  • We are truly full-time clinicians who clock-in 8-10 hrs a day to see patients and testing our methods every day. We also learn continuously and we share it with others.
 Knowledge is useful only when it is shared with others. Choose wisely the right course for you to become an exceptional therapist.
Mohamed Kassim, PT, Brunei
Raj Kannan PT, India

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