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Pitt PM&R and Rehab Tech Teams Study Efficacy of Using Remote Learning to Teach Clinicians Manual Wheelchair Skills

May 2, 2023

Michael Boninger, MD, professor, and Lynn Worobey, PhD, assistant professor, University of Pittsburgh Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation – along with Rachel Hibbs, DPT, assistant professor, Pitt Department of Rehabilitation Science & Technology – published “Using remote learning to teach clinicians manual wheelchair skills: a cohort study with pre- vs post-training comparisons” in Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology.

Conducted in collaboration with several other university departments of PM&R across the country, the purpose of the study was to test the hypothesis that remote learning to teach clinicians manual wheelchair skills is efficacious.

A convenience sample of therapists (physical and occupational) and students were enrolled in pairs in a cohort study with pre- versus post-training comparisons. The intervention was a hybrid of self-study and hands-on practice paired with remote feedback for ten intermediate and advanced manual wheelchair skills.

Participants practiced with self-selected frequency and duration, uploading a session log and video(s) to an online platform. A remote trainer provided asynchronous feedback prior to the next practice session. Capacity and confidence in completing the ten skills were evaluated using the Wheelchair Skills Test Questionnaire (WST-Q). Knowledge of wheelchair skills training and motor learning was assessed using a 62-item Knowledge Test. Secondary outcome measures included skill achievement, as confirmed by submitted video recordings, and participant feedback about the training.

Across 41 participants, scores were higher at follow-up compared to baseline for WST-Q capacity (73.9 ± 19.1 vs 16.8 ± 15.6, p < 0.001), WST-Q confidence (80.1 ± 12.2 vs 47.6 ± 18.2, p = 0.003) and knowledge (70.8 ± 7.5 vs 67.0 ± 5.4, p = 0.004).

The team concluded that remote learning can increase wheelchair skills capacity and confidence as well as knowledge about such training and assessment. This model should be further investigated as a delivery method for training rehabilitation professionals.

Learn more.

Note: The team has expanded the training materials from this study and is now testing them in a nationwide research study enrolling rehabilitation professionals. Follow this link to learn more about, or enroll in, this study.

Study collaborators

R. Lee Kirby, MD, FRCPC

Rachel E. Cowan, PhD

Trevor Dyson-Hudson, MD

Mary Shea, OT

Allen W. Heinemann, PhD

Jessica Presperin Pedersen, OT