Use Evidence-Based Practice to Improve Your Nursing Career and Organization

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Evidence-based PracticeMany industries today employ the strategy of evidence-based practice and emphasize its importance in improving one’s individual career, as well as the overall organization. What does evidence-based practice mean for those currently involved in health care, specifically in the field of nursing?

Evidence-based practice defined

So what exactly is evidence-based practice? For the field of nursing, the Medical Dictionary defines it as a practice in which the nurse makes clinical decisions based on three criteria:

  1. best available current research evidence
  2. nurse’s own clinical expertise
  3. each patient’s “needs and preferences”

A nursing blog maintained by a team of registered nurses states it simply in the blog’s name, Nursing Research: Show me the evidence! In order to verify that a particular treatment, procedure or practice is effective, and therefore worth continuing its use, nurses look for evidence to support it through their research. The ultimate goal is to ensure that patients receive the best and safest care possible based on credible, proven research.

Marquetta Flaugher, ARNP, explains that a gap sometimes exists between ongoing research and actual hands-on application of the research in an organization’s practice. Flaugher refers to this as the “research/practice gap,” and she states that evidence-based practice is the most valuable tool to close that gap.

In addition, Flaugher emphasizes that engaging in evidence-based practice serves an additional purpose: It challenges nurses to investigate why they continue using currently accepted methods and to explore if newer methods would be more effective.

Implications for nursing careers

Evidence-based practice is especially important in health care because of the need to regulate and implement procedures and treatments that are best for patients.

Dr. Victoria Schrim is director of nursing research for Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. She shares the four basic steps that comprise evidence-based practice, as defined by Sackett, Straus and Richardson in their publication titled Evidence-Based Medicine: How to Practice and Teach EBM:

  • Convert gathered information into a question you can answer. Develop a question based on the PICO formula: population, intervention, comparison and outcome.
  • Search for and locate the best evidence. Conducting research requires nurses to have a good understanding of how to do so using the best resources, such as critically appraised studies, peer-reviewed research studies and medical databases and textbooks.
  • Assess your results to determine validity and usefulness. Critically analyze your evidence using basic study design and ascertaining its scientific quality.
  • Incorporate your findings into your clinical practice; then evaluate how well you performed in your professional practice. Apply changes with staff education and cooperation; conduct a trial implementation in one easy area of practice; determine if the change is effective; and continue monitoring outcomes.

Implementing the four basic steps of evidence-based practice can undoubtedly improve your own nursing career along with your health care organization.

More reasons to implement evidence-based practice

In an article on, Jennifer Olin, RN, shares the insights gathered through her involvement in several evidence-based research projects. More specifically, Olin discusses the impressive results from research into reducing blood stream infections that commonly occur in intensive care units during the use of intravascular central catheters. The combination of research and evidence-based practice resulted in a 38 percent reduction in blood stream infections, which also lowered health care costs.

Perhaps Olin’s strongest assertion is that research and evidence-based practice reveal that adequate nurse staffing not only reduces patient risks, but even lowers patient mortality.

What better reason could there be for evidence-based practice than to save lives?

edited by Kevin Phang

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