A qualitative study of health professions curricula and management of lateral ankle ligament sprain demonstrates inconsistency

Toni Green, Grant Willson, Kieran Fallon

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BACKGROUND: Health educators aim to graduate students who are safe, effective and practice evidence-based medicine (EBM). Clinical Practice Guidelines (CPGs) are tools for translating evidence into clinical practice for health professionals and educators who lack time to appraise the evidence. There have been CPGs published for lateral ankle ligament sprains (LALS) for physiotherapists, nurses, and doctors. Clinical decision rules have also been developed for LALS to increase the safety of practice. The Ottawa Ankle Rules (OAR) were developed to screen for the need for an x-ray following an ankle or foot injury.

METHODS: Educators from the Australasian College of Sports and Exercise Physicians (ACSEP), St John Ambulance first aiders, pharmacy, nursing, and physiotherapy disciplines were participants in this study. Using purposeful sampling with semi-structured questions and a LALS case study, 19 Australian educators were interviewed. Curricula and textbooks were also collected and analysed. Two researchers independently analysed the data using a deductive method.

RESULTS: Analysis found that no educator used a CPG to inform their teaching. There was no common LALS curriculum for the five groups studied. There were two approaches: a triage curriculum (St John Ambulance, pharmacy, nursing) and a reflective curriculum (ASCEP and physiotherapy). Textbooks influenced curriculum for physiotherapy, pharmacy and first aid educators. The triage curricula recommend rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE) alone, while the reflective curricula uses OAR, RICE, immobilisation if the LALS is severe, functional support (brace), exercises and manual therapy. In addition, ACSEP and physiotherapy do not recommend electrotherapy. All five groups were cautious about the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

CONCLUSIONS: Physiotherapy and ACSEP educators teach OAR. Despite not using the CPGs to inform curriculum, physiotherapy and ACSEP have unintentionally aligned their curriculum with current LALS CPG recommendations. However, nursing, pharmacy and first aid trainers are not teaching OAR or aligned with LALS CPGs. Educators in pharmacy, nursing and first aid should re-examine their curricula and consider possibly teaching OAR and using CPG. Clinical practice guideline developers should consider pharmacists and first aiders as users of their LALS CPGs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number99
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalBMC Medical Education
Issue number1
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 31 Mar 2020


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