Effective continuing education for breast disease: A randomized trial comparing home study and workshop formats

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Effective continuing education (CE) for breast disease and early detection of breast cancer are highly relevant, given the profile of this disease. The realities of modern practice highlight the need for new and effective tools in CE. This study had two objectives: (1) to demonstrate improvement in knowledge and comfort in patient management following a CE program on breast disease and early detection of breast cancer; and (2) to compare a home study module and a workshop format given the same educational package. Study participants were 50 physicians drawn from two geographic areas in Southern Ontario as obtained through the College of Family Physicians of Ontario. A randomized two-arm study was conducted with randomization being done by geographic region (25 in each arm). A common educational package was delivered in two formats: home study and workshop. Knowledge and comfort dealing with breast problems were assessed prior to the CE intervention and 4 months after completion by a questionnaire specifically developed to assess knowledge and skills/attitudes. A significant increase in knowledge was observed in both the home study and workshop groups. Furthermore, in both groups, physicians reported feeling more comfortable in dealing with difficult, breast-related issues when pre- and post-test scores were compared. The home study and workshop formats were equally effective, with no significant difference noted between them. These findings suggest that for highly relevant subject material, a course of home study may be as effective as a workshop in the transfer and retention of knowledge and practice comfort. This may have important application to other selective topics, particularly in areas where physicians, due to constraints of practice, are unable to take time away for formal CE events.

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