Mental health professional online development (MHPOD): Pilot testing of an online training package for Australian specialist mental health services
Introduction: Australia’s National Practice Standards for the Mental Health Workforce (“The Standards”) outline the values, attitudes, knowledge and skills required to work in Australian mental health services. Mental health professionals are encouraged to meet these standards within 2 years of commencing practice. Mental health professional online development (MHPOD) is a multidisciplinary, self-directed, online learning resource focused on increasing the knowledge, skills and confidence of professionals across Australia related to The Standards. This paper outlines the evaluation of the MHPOD pilot, which aimed to identify changes in self-rated knowledge, skills and confidence as a result of using MHPOD, and actions to improve implementation of MHPOD nationally.
Methods: Eleven Australian specialist mental health services engaged on-site project teams to assist 392 learners to complete 10 MHPOD topics. At three time points (baseline, topic completion, follow-up), learners completed surveys regarding completion of topics, barriers and facilitators to completion and before- and after-completion levels of perceived knowledge, skills and confidence. Statistical analyses included matched samples t-tests and comparisons of confidence intervals related to mean level of knowledge at the three survey points.
Results: Learners who completed post-completion surveys reported significant increases in self-rated knowledge, skills and confidence related to The Standards following MHPOD completion. Lack of organisational support, no time release and technological difficulties contributed to greater difficulties with completion.
Discussion: The evaluation results illustrate self-directed online learning can be a useful multidisciplinary educational tool when a standardised body of knowledge is required. The identified barriers to completion illustrate that instrumental organisational support is essential to completion of such professional development.
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