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by Cynthia C. Mercado, EMBA, M.A. and Stanley K. Ellis, Ed.D.

Evidence–based outcomes have become the by-word of research organizations, especially to document accountability for use of scarce resources in government-funded research. The Arkansas Geriatric Education Collaborative (AGEC), a Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration, is a case in point. Currently, in its second year of implementation, AGEC’s goal is to educate Arkansas’ health care professionals, students, caregivers, first responders and the general public about issues and topics that affect the older population. Advancing such goals requires AGEC to offer a whole host of initiatives such as video teleconferences, Alzheimer’s Dementia training, Geriatric Grand Rounds, Arkansas Geriatric Mentors and Scholars (AR-GEMS), evidence-based self-management programs for older adults, caregiver classes, first responder classes, and Summer Institute for Faculty, among others.

How does AGEC track the progress of these endeavors? How does AGEC know whether these initiatives reach their intended end-users? How can AGEC best respond to the current needs of Arkansas healthcare professionals? Answering such questions provides AGEC valuable feedback to guide planning and policy directives.

To answer these questions AGEC, in collaboration with the UAMS Office of Educational Development Evaluation (OED) Team, has designed a process to help assess and evaluate the outcomes of their numerous educational endeavors. Both quantitative and qualitative data are collected from participants using mailed and online survey questionnaires. To date, OED has created and administered Survey Monkey questionnaires to evaluate the program’s impact on the practice/job of the participants and knowledge shared with friends and co-workers (90-day evaluation); evaluated programs and speakers related to content delivery, and strengths of the educational activity; gathered participants’ feedback about the tour in the Alzheimer’s/Dementia Experience: Take a Walk in Their Shoes; and caregivers’ view of the Geriatric-focused program presentations. These questionnaires include demographic variables such as age, race or ethnicity, gender and professional affiliations. A comprehensive participant database is continuously updated through the use of the Participant Profile surveys. For some participants (e.g., MD, DO, RN, PT), the Program Sign-in Sheet for Contact Credit Hours documents their professional activities to fulfill their mandatory CE/CPE hours.

A program as dynamic as AGEC will continue to evaluate its offerings to help guide the future directions and address the educational needs of the participants. Plans are underway to conduct a statewide needs assessment in the spring of 2017.

We urge you, the participants in these activities, to complete these evaluations because policy makers and researchers rely on your feedback to make policy decisions and provide activities that will help you, your clients and loved ones receive quality services they deserve.