A myriad of workshops and courses are being bombarded in the Physiotherapy profession. With this exponential outburst in workshops worldwide, 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 worldwide, but you want to pick the one that will meet the specific needs of your area of interest and ensure 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 waste time because no clear goal is kept at the discussion centre. Goals mean the participants must know what they will learn or can do after attending that workshop. Make sure you will be eligible to practice the technique after completing the course. The technique you will learn should be within your scope of practice and must fall within your jurisdiction.
2.Is this workshop for me?
Choose the workshop pertinent to your field of practice. If you are a sports physio and attend an NDT workshop, it is an utter waste of time. Even if the topic attracts you, make sure the workshop’s contents are on par with your clinical expertise or requirements. Some workshops are too basic for a seasoned Physiotherapist as the stuff demonstrated and talked about will be great for a newly qualified or junior physio 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.
3.Who is the Instructor, and what is his reputation in teaching similar courses?
Next, you want to consider who will speak or who the workshop’s instructor is. Most workshop advertisements will have the speaker’s name. Do a little background check on their teaching experience and how many workshops he has 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, teaching skills, field knowledge, etc. It does not mean novice teachers are less skilful because all highly regarded teachers were novices at the beginning of their careers.
The instructor should have a strong passion and in-depth knowledge of the subject and conveys that with a passion to others. A good instructor will motivate others to learn, guiding them on how to learn for themselves in a relevant, meaningful and memorable manner.
4.How is the research support the technique that is taught in the course?
We must admit that no one technique in physiotherapy has irrefutable solid Level 1 evidence. But a 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 sufficient studies are available to back up the technique. The resource person or the organizer must furnish the available research well ahead of the course for the participants to decide on it. You can consider taking the course if there is an adequate number of randomized controlled trials (RCT) with a few systematic reviews in support of the techniques. Some techniques are new in the field and may take some time for more research. In such cases, you decide based on the available case series and the face value of the technique.
5.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. A charming teacher beautifully presents some workshops, but the clinical utility would be less. So please don’t fail to get feedback from the previous participants on whether the skill they learned is still used in their clinic.
6.Is the instructor a clinician or a teaching faculty?
Some Instructors are full-time workshop presenters and 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 will soon get outdated and continue to have a strong bias towards their technique without realizing that their 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 has at least seen 8 – 10 patients every day. If the instructor is working in a college as a teaching faculty, they are probably 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 is high than an expert teacher being an expert clinician.
7.How many papers did the instructor publish in indexed journals?
Apart from teaching, the instructor must be a researcher and truly put his treatment method under scientific scrutiny. He must publish studies in peer-reviewed indexed journals to prove to the world that his treatment methods are testable and have research support. As a clinician-researcher, it is 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 evaluate any treatment methods critically. If the researcher teaches a technique, he tends to eliminate all sorts of bias and control all variables. He tries to attribute the obtained pain relief truly due to the treatment effect. Hence if a researcher clinician teaches a technique, there should be an element of truth.
8.Does the instructor continuously provide professional support after the course?
The workshop provides support even after the course and 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 with the instructor and other participants. In this way, they can continue clarifying doubts and 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 for these workshops, the standard of physiotherapy care would not have improved to what it is now. Only through workshops are physiotherapists 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 also host workshops and courses to keen, eager minds wanting more information and knowledge. What we hope we are doing different is:-
- We don’t claim we are “Masters” or “Leaders” or 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.
- We try to enthuse, excite and explain to others effectively the subject through evidence-led therapy and bridge any gaps with our clinical experiences.
- We are full-time clinicians who clock in 8-10 hrs a day to see patients and test our methods daily. We also learn continuously, and we share it with others.
Knowledge is useful only when it is shared with others. Therefore, choose wisely the right course for you to become an exceptional therapist.
Mohamed Kassim, PT, Brunei
Raj Kannan PT, India