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Establishing a successful journal club

Help members keep up to date with the latest evidence, build skills and improve knowledge with a journal club

29 November 2018, at 2:38pm

Utter the term “book club” and everyone immediately knows how to start one but swap out “book” for “journal” and it can be a bit more difficult to fathom. Here are some tips on what exactly a journal club is, its benefits and how one might work in your practice.

What is a journal club?

At its core, a journal club is a regularly held meeting in which members of the veterinary team discuss articles in the scientific literature.

Journal clubs bring with them a number of benefits, such as:

  • Helping to link research and clinical practice
  • Helping participants keep abreast of current research and new literature
  • Helping to develop the critical appraisal skills of participants
  • Stimulating debate and improved understanding of current topics within a practice
  • Assisting with generating practice guidelines or protocols
  • Encouraging evidence-based veterinary medicine
  • Supporting continuous quality improvement initiatives
  • Providing CPD
  • Encouraging teamwork

There are two main types: critical appraisal journal clubs, which are more focused on building up academic and soft skills; and evidence-based journal clubs, which intend to influence current practice by assessing evidence and implementing it.

What’s best?

What is best totally depends on what the practice or group wants to achieve. Evidence-based clubs are more in-depth by their very nature – you are likely to require numerous sessions to properly appraise, consider and implement the evidence – and are longer-term endeavours that have tangible effects on clinical practice. Critical appraisal clubs, however, are a good starting point if it would be beneficial for participants to grow confidence in their critiquing skills.

Whichever option the practice chooses, there are a series of “musts” to give the club the best chance of success.

  • Choose a facilitator – someone who will be committed to the concept and has experience of critical appraisal.
  • Set goals – identify the topics you want to consider. These could be clinical queries arising from recent patients, timely issues such as Alabama rot or firework season or any other evidence gaps you’ve spotted.
  • Find relevant articles – decide if the search for relevant literature will be part of the club or carried out by the facilitator. Consider whether participants will read the articles before or during the meetings.
  • Make sure club members have the material they need – not just the article(s) you are assessing, but also other tools such as literature searching advice and critical appraisal checklists.
  • Choose a time and place – will the club be carried out in person or online via a group discussion? When, where and how often?
  • Hold the meeting – the facilitator should welcome staff and set out the agenda. Keeping minutes and a record of each meeting is helpful for future discussions and CPD certification.
  • Clinical bottom line – this one is specific to evidence-based clubs. Once the evidence relevant to a topic has been critically appraised, discuss as a team what the bottom line of each study/all studies is. This is an important step, from which new guidelines or checklists can be formed to influence current practice.

If you want support setting up or participating in a journal club, RCVS Knowledge can help:

  • Join the Library for unbeatable access to veterinary literature and assistance with literature searching
  • Peruse the guidance on “Setting up and running a journal club in practice” (bit.ly/2xRBfwK)
  • Download the free critical appraisals checklists ρ Visit and sign up to inFOCUS to receive updates on the best new studies and ideas for journal club topics (infocusvj.org)

Learn more