Introduction to Evidence Based Practice in Nursing

 “If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.”

-Sir Isaac Newton

Best practices are the backbone of effective nursing. For nurses to succeed in their work, it is crucial for them to understand what procedures are most supported by research-based evidence and to continue learning as these conclusions change. Evidence based practice is vital for nurses seeking to improve in their career.

Evidence Based Practice in Nursing

Evidence based practice is the act of making decisions about patient care that draw on an understanding of the best current available evidence on the topic. For nurses, this translates into combining clinical evidence, individual expertise and patient preferences to inform how they complete their work. According to the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses (AMSN), the goals of evidence based practice are:

  • To give nurses the best evidence based data available
  • To resolve problems in the clinical setting
  • To provide excellent care delivery
  • To reduce variations in care
  • To encourage effective nursing interventions
  • To help nurses make efficient and effective decisions in their work

The Journal of the Medical Library Association (JMLA) identifies six steps for evidence based practice:

  1. Nurses must identify their personal knowledge gaps
  2. Based on those gaps, nurses must formulate relevant questions about the subject at hand
  3. Nurses must conduct a literature search
  4. Nurses must apply rules of evidence to determine the validity of the studies they read
  5. Nurses must apply literature findings to their patients’ problems
  6. Nurses must appropriately involve the patient in clinical decision making

Evidence based practice is a way to bridge what AMSN refers to as the “research-practice gap,” or the discrepancy between what is known from research and what is implemented in the daily practice of nursing. This is accomplished through various means, including standardizing and strengthening evidence, translating research science into applicable clinical recommendations and consolidating evidence into online databases, which provides an effective way for nurses to review information.

Nurses can also increase their effectiveness in evidence based practice by asking themselves questions such as:

  • What isn’t working in my practice?
  • What do I want to know about that will help me in my work?
  • What resources are available about this topic, and what is their quality?
  • What interventions have worked in other places?
  • How can I change my practice effectively?
  • How well is my practice working for my patients?

Ultimately, evidence based practice enables the best possible knowledge to surface, increasing the quality of patient care.

Why Evidence Based Practice Is Important

Evidence based practice is beneficial for a number of reasons. The approach:

  • Allows healthcare professionals to develop best practices
  • Reduces variation in treatment
  • Increases nurses’ ability to provide safe and effective services
  • Improves patient outcomes
  • Decreases costs for patients and institutions by standardizing and streamlining care
  • Decreases the likelihood of unnecessary procedures
  • Reduces the chance of complications
  • Encourages efficient decision making
  • Promotes continual learning

The importance of evidence based practice is further emphasized with an understanding of how difficult it may potentially be for some nurses to implement the practice. JMLA found that all too often, nurses face difficult practical barriers in evidence based practice, such as:

  • Not having enough authority to change patient care procedures
  • Lacking sufficient time on the job to implement new ideas
  • Lack of resources
  • Inadequate access to information technology

Despite these challenges, nurses can and should implement evidence based practice whenever possible so that patient care improves and the practice of nursing advances.

Additional sources: BMJ Clinical Evidence Blog, “Evidence-Based Nursing Practice: Why Is It Important?”

Your Nursing Career

Nurses must combine the highest-quality medical knowledge with effective decision making if they are to lead in their field. The online RN-to-BSN degree at Husson University provides professional nurses a practical curriculum that can be immediately applied to their daily work. Because the program is offered fully online, students can earn their degree while maintaining their schedules.