A critical integrative review of complementary medicine education research: Key issues and empirical gaps

Publication Type:
Journal Article
BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2019, 19 (1)
Issue Date:
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© The Author(s). 2019. Background Complementary Medicine (CM) continues to thrive across many countries. Closely related to the continuing popularity of CM has been an increased number of enrolments at CM education institutions across the public and private tertiary sectors. Despite the popularity of CM across the globe and growth in CM education/education providers, to date, there has been no critical review of peer-reviewed research examining CM education undertaken. In direct response to this important gap, this paper reports the first critical review of contemporary literature examining CM education research. Methods A review was undertaken of research to identify empirical research papers reporting on CM education published between 2005 and 17. The search was conducted in May 2017 and included the search of PubMed and EBSCO (CINAHL, MEDLINE, AMED) for search terms embracing CM and education. Identified studies were evaluated using the STROBE, SRQP and MMAT appraisal tools. Results From 9496 identified papers, 18 met the review inclusion criteria (English language, original empirical research data, reporting on the prevalence or nature of the education of CM practitioners), and highlighted four broad issues: CM education provision; the development of educational competencies to develop clinical skills and standards; the application of new educational theory, methods and technology in CM; and future challenges facing CM education. This critical integrative review highlights two key issues of interest and significance for CM educational institutions, CM regulators and researchers, and points to number of significant gaps in this area of research. There is very sporadic coverage of research in CM education. The clear absence of the robust and mature research regarding educational technology and e-learning taking place in medical and or allied health education research is notably absent within CM educational research. Conclusion Despite the high levels of CM use in the community, and the thriving nature of CM educational institutions globally, the current evidence evaluating the procedures, effectiveness and outcomes of CM education remains limited on a number of fronts. There is an urgent need to establish a strategic research agenda around this important aspect of health care education with the overarching goal to ensure a well-educated and effective health care workforce.
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