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Virtual grand rounds: a new educational approach in social work that benefits long-term care providers and patients in rural Idaho

Submitted: 29 August 2008
Revised: 20 December 2008
Published: 9 February 2009

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Author(s) : Cunningham BJ, Vande Merwe R.

Barbara CunninghamRobert Vande Merwe

Citation: Cunningham BJ, Vande Merwe R.  Virtual grand rounds: a new educational approach in social work that benefits long-term care providers and patients in rural Idaho. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2009; 9: 1073. Available: (Accessed 17 October 2017)


Introduction:  Nationwide, rural USA is experiencing a shortage of social workers. In rural Idaho, three state-wide non-profit organizations worked together to develop Virtual Grand Rounds (VGRs), a new approach to delivering continuing education to social workers and residential care coordinators, in order to promote their retention in the workforce. This study examined participant satisfaction and the potential for the delivery system to be replicated in other states.
Methods:  Between July 2002 and December 2006, 740 person-hours (359 attendees x 2.06 hours) of continuing education were delivered to resident care coordinators and social workers in 9 sessions of VGRs. In total, 287 evaluation forms (79% return rate) were collected on the quality of the presentation, the presenter’s expertise and delivery, the relevance and value of the presentation to the attendee, and the quality of the technology. The questionnaire consisted of 10 questions that aimed to measure participant satisfaction level, using a five-point Likert scale with a comments section.
Results:  Programs and presenters received positive scores. Participants approved of the delivery method and the overall satisfaction rating was 4.1. As to whether the information presented would lead to changes in practice, participants responded positively with a score of 3.25.
Conclusion:  The Telehealth Idaho program contributed to a thorough training for new healthcare employees and for those in rural Idaho unable to attend the annual conference for essential training. Initial successes led to an expansion of the program to include other facility staff, and other topics which provided a new training system and infrastructure. This represents one unique contribution to addressing the rural social workers shortage.

Key words:  access to healthcare, continuing education, frontier, social work, telehealth, virtual grand rounds.

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