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In daily practice, a veterinarian has to judge information and decide whether it can be adequately implemented for a given case. In this context, it is vital to base decisions on the most recent and reliable scientific findings. In Germany, every practitioner must take part in 20 to 40 hours annually of continuing education. To outline the current assessment and employment of evidence-based veterinary medicine (EBVM), we surveyed practitioners concerning continuing education and their skills in obtaining and evaluating scientific information.
A survey amongst veterinary practitioners was conducted throughout five continuing education courses between May 2010 and November 2011. The questionnaire contained 32 questions concerning demographic data and profession (n = 4), qualification (n = 3), continuing education (n = 5) and skills related to EBVM (n = 20). Besides evaluating the statements of all participants, veterinarians were classified based on the type of practice and their statements compared.
In total, 293 questionnaires were returned. The majority of small animal practitioners (58.3%) and those working with food animals (54.9%) declared being capable of comprehending scientific talks or papers in English without difficulty. 10.4% of all practitioners neglected reading veterinary journals on a regular basis, while 20.8% stated they regularly read English veterinary journals. The majority of the practitioners sought advice from their employer or a colleague. They attributed a high or very high quality to both these information sources. Almost every participant (92.6%) stated that they consulted medical books, and 88.6% certified this information source as being of high or very high quality. 68.6% of the practitioners evaluated their skills in finding suitable literature as high or very high. However, only approximately half (52.1%) of all participants attributed themselves a high ability to evaluate the quality of the literature found.
Most practitioners are very limited in their ability to assess the evidence of scientific information. Therefore, courses that introduce EBVM should be taught in both veterinary and postgraduate education to train critical appraisal of information and to support decision-making based on valid, clinically relevant data.