Data were collected using an observational, cross-sectional Web-based survey.
The desired study population was pharmacists who were currently practicing pharmacy in either a community pharmacy (chain or independent) or a health care setting (e.g., hospital, home health care, long-term care, mail order). Subjects were excluded from the study if they were retired, not employed in a pharmacy or health care setting, or did not respond within one month of survey initiation.
A sample of pharmacists was attained from a professional marketing company. This company provided a random listing of 5000 pharmacists who were members of preselected professional pharmacy organizations. From this list, a random sample of 2000 pharmacists was identified for participation in the survey.
A 31-item questionnaire was developed by the project staff. Solicited demographic information included age, sex, and primary place of employment. In addition, recipients were asked to indicate the average number of hours they worked per week. Full-time employment was defined as working more than 36 hours per week.
Additional questions asked recipients to define the type of CE format they generally used, such as lectures, symposia, and printed materials. Because of the concern about recipients’ ability to accurately recall specific CE programs used, pharmacists were asked to report the types of CE programs attended or used within the prior six months.
Finally, questions were included to assess the effectiveness of CE programs and their ability to enhance knowledge and clinical practice behavior. To avoid recall bias, recipients were asked only to assess the effectiveness of the most recent CE program completed on a 5-point Likert scale (1 = not effective and 5 = extremely effective). For the statistical analysis, scores were aggregated into three categories: 1-2 = not effective, 3 = neutral, and 4-5 = effective.
The questionnaire was formatted for online administration on SurveyMonkey.com, a Web-based survey portal. The survey was first pilot-tested with a convenience sample of pharmacists. The investigators also accessed the survey via a wide variety of common Web portals to confirm accessibility and reliability of the survey site.
A recruitment letter, which included a description of the study objective and the Internet address to access the survey, was mailed to the sample of 2000 pharmacists. In addition, for those pharmacists who were willing to participate but unable to access the Internet, the name of a contact person was included in the letter from whom they could obtain a written version of the survey. Those pharmacists who did not receive the recruitment letter because of an incorrect mailing address were replaced with pharmacists randomly selected from the unused remaining sample of 3000 pharmacists. A follow-up mailing was sent within two weeks to nonresponders. All participants completing the survey were entered in a prize drawing and had a 1 in 10 chance of winning a $50 gift certificate. The survey was closed after one month. Participation was voluntary and confidential. The study procedures were reviewed and approved by the Thomas Jefferson University institutional review board.
All data were collected between September and October 2001. Data were downloaded and entered into Microsoft Excel (Microsoft Corp., Redmond, WA). Descriptive statistics were computed for all variables. Chi-square analyses were performed to compare the use of different types of CE programs among groups of pharmacists selected by work setting, average hours worked per week, and age. In addition, chi-square analysis was used to compare pharmacists’ responses regarding the effectiveness of CE formats used and the types of CE programs. Statistical analyses were performed using SAS statistical software, version 8.1 (SAS Institute, Cary, NC).