What is Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing?

Nurses face a heavy workload: charts and paperwork to complete, direct patient care and so much more. In today’s medical world, research is becoming another task that nurses are encouraged to undertake. Exploring research and applying the findings to patient care can help improve patient outcomes.

Due to its importance and positive results, evidence-based practice is becoming increasingly encouraged in the healthcare sector. Nurses need to stay up-to-date on the latest technologies and research findings in order to provide high-quality care.

Defining Evidence-Based Practice

What is evidence-based practice (EBP)? The Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses defines it as “the conscientious use of current best evidence in making decisions about patient care.” The National Council of State Boards of Nursing explains it as “the integration of the best research with clinical expertise and patient values.” Evidence-based practice is an approach that combines the following:

  • A systematic search for and critical appraisal of the most relevant evidence to answer a burning clinical question
  • One’s own clinical expertise
  • Patient preferences and values

EBP helps nurses assess research, clinical guidelines and other resources in order to apply those findings to provide quality care for patients. The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing further explains the EBP definition: “the elements in the definition emphasize knowledge produced through rigorous and systematic inquiry; the experience of the clinician; and the values of the patient, providing an enduring and encompassing definition of EBP.”

Often times you’ll hear “best research” referred to when discussing EBP. This term is commonly used to describe how nurses and other professionals identify reliable research, combine best practices and utilize those findings in healthcare settings, according to The Online Journal of Issues of Nursing. To use “best research,” nurses need to identify what methods could potentially work to improve patient care and identify processes proven to help.

Another important term in the EBP definition is “clinical expertise.” This refers to the knowledge that nurses carry from gaining experience in the workplace. The combination of on-the-job expertise combined with medical research and the values of the patient are what make EBP such a strong tool.

Nurses use EBP to explore both the internal and external influences on practice, according to The Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) Library. Critical thinking is often imperative when seeking to apply research to the care of patients, whether that means individuals or patient populations as a whole.

Impacts of Evidence-based Practice in Nursing

In the 1960s, nursing education was established as an applied science, according to The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. But it wasn’t until the mid 1990s that it became apparent that new knowledge was not the only ingredient nurses need to succeed. Instead, nurses must be able to take new information and transform it into knowledge that can be directly used to help patients. In addition, it must be “effectively implemented across the entire care team within a systems context, and measured in terms of meaningful impact on performance and health outcomes,” as The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing reports. Now that EBP’s influence is gaining traction, research is making a direct impact and helping better patient care in numerous facilities.

Evidence-based Challenges Nurses Face

Numerous nurses agree that EBP is important and can help foster favorable patient outcomes. One study found that more than 64% of nurses communicated a positive attitude toward EBP (Majid, Foo, Luyt, Zhang, Theng, Chang, & Mokhtar, 2011), as reported by the Journal of the Medical Library Association.

But many of those nurses also expressed that a variety of challenges can sometimes hinder their ability to utilize EBP. Some of these barriers include lack of time, inability to understand statistical terms and inadequate understanding of the jargon used in research articles.

To combat some of these issues, increasing numbers of healthcare academic programs are offering training for nurses so that they can successfully understand and utilize research when caring for patients. In nursing programs, you’ll find EBP weaved into curricula and teaching strategies, as The National Council of State Boards of Nursing. Other training programs are made available by healthcare facilities, and some hospital libraries offer useful information and help nurses improve literacy skills.

How EBP Applies to Nurses Today

No matter if you conduct your own research or enroll in a training program, though, using evidence to better your skill set is a beneficial endeavor. As the Journal of Online Issues in Nursing suggests, evidence-based practice is growing in importance for a reason, and many of today’s issues in nursing are being resolved by applying research directly to care.

One way nurses can help improve the state of EBP in the healthcare sector is by getting involved in legislature. Policymakers on the federal, state and local level all play a vital role in the adoption and sustainability of EDP, according to the Journal of Online Issues in Nursing. Nurses can help encourage and support legislation by speaking up about the importance. After EDP measures are supported by legislature, it is then up to healthcare teams to implement new procedures, whether that means by the individual care providers or system leaders.

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