Published Thu, 2011-03-31 11:29; updated 33 weeks ago.
Healthcare staff in the Black Country have taken part in a pilot scheme to assess the effectiveness of a self directed training workbook and DVD.
The project, which also includes online breastfeeding knowledge and practices assessment, was launched to see if the novel approach to training would improve specialist understanding among staff.
Researchers also wanted to see if the approach is more effective than a more traditional workshop approach.
The training programme and assessment methods were provided by Health Behaviour Research Ltd, and were tested with healthcare professionals in maternity and community settings in Walsall and Dudley.
Professor Louise Wallace, who heads the company at Coventry University, said: "Self directed methods and e-learning will come into their own in the future because of the flexibility and potential to be cost-effective compared with traditional methods.
"Our system costs around a quarter of the cost of traditional off site workshops."
The self directed learning programme was born out of a workbook that was tested in Warwickshire, where the trusts were keen to explore alternatives to workshops because of the need to train large numbers of staff.
The essential skills DVD supports learning positioning and attachment and teaches mothers’ hand expression, which together support the aims of the Unicef Baby Friendly Initiative for the training standard.
It also drew heavily on the Coventry University Breastfeeding Assessment (CUBA), an online multiple choice test. This is unique worldwide and provides objective assessment of knowledge on all the learning outcomes required for staff to be trained in line with Unicef BFI standards.
A total of 322 participants – from clinical managers, a consultant, midwives, health visitors and neonatal unit nurses, and staff at a Children’s Centre – took part in a baseline CUBA online assessment, three-quarters of whom were from Dudley.
Each stage was marked via a web tool and participants were given automatic feedback about their scores and advice on how they could improve their breastfeeding support. A total of 228 completed the training and received marker feedback, while 184 completed the CUBA2.
Prof Wallace said: "The pre-post training CUBA results show a statistically very significant improvement in knowledge totals overall and improvement."
She said the data showed there was an improvement in knowledge among all participants in all categories, except positioning and attachment, breastfeeding difficulties.
"This reinforces the need for discussion and observation of practice in the key areas of positioning and attachment and managing breastfeeding difficulties," says Prof Wallace.
Importantly, staff knowledge improved despite their profession.
Children's centre staff started off with lower scores, but achieved the same levels as midwives and other clinical staff at CUBA2, said Prof Wallace.
Any differences before the programme in knowledge or experience made no difference to the increase in knowledge achieved, she added.
Professor Wallace is hoping to undertake a large-scale test, which compares workshop learning compared with the training delivered entirely by e-learning methods.
Due for review October 2013