The ABCs of Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing

Nurses are often seen as generic nurturers, bustling middle-aged women in a white uniform constantly carrying around fresh sheets or fluffy pillows. We’re often confused with nannies or therapists. In reality, nurses are scientists with an in-depth knowledge of human anatomy and physiology, the latest in medical technology, and the most recent research into diseases and treatments. So while many consider us to be glorified babysitters, the truth is that we have incredible knowledge and skills relating to human health. Because of this high standard of excellence and ability, it is absolutely crucial that we work according to the latest in evidence-based practice. If you aren’t sure exactly what this entails, keep reading for a brief breakdown of evidence-based practice in nursing.

What is Evidence-Based Practice?

Evidence-based practice, or EBP, is defined as “decision-making on the care delivery to patients, which is based on current, identified, and validated research evidence, consumer’s preferences, expert opinions, and societal expectations. In other words, it is a nurse’s duty to perform her job to the best of her ability not according to her own opinions or feelings, but according to the evidence that is resultant of other factors.

As mentioned above, a good nurse is also a good learner; she takes the time to research the latest developments and reads timely journal articles related to her field. She stays up to date with research, experts, and even current cultural contexts as well as patient opinions. Essentially, evidence-based practice allows nurses to make the best decisions for care because they are incredibly well-informed from a number of reliable and important sources.

Why Should I Care about Evidence-Based Practice?

As a bedside nurse, your most important duty is offering quality care to patients in need. Everything you do should be in the service of that one major goal. In order to reach the goal of offering quality care, you will need to stay current on the most recent discoveries in healthcare.

On the other hand, keeping up with evidence-based practice will not only help you do the right things with patients, but it will help you know what treatments or procedures to avoid. For instance, it has come to light in recent studies that the use of hydrogen peroxide to clean wounds may be doing more harm than good. In fact, scientists have discovered that the chemical is cytotoxic and will often kill the skin cells that are created at the wound site during healing. While continuing to use hydrogen peroxide likely won’t harm or kill a patient, it is not the best method, and evidence-based practice is all about using the absolute best method of doing things. After all, what’s the point of researching better ways to do things if nurses won’t take heed? Nurses should know now that mild soap and warm water are currently considered the best way to clean a patient’s wounds. Refusing to do so is going against the evidence.

The wound-washing procedure is just a small example of how we should all use evidence-based practice in our work. But consider all of the much larger issues that could have greater consequences if best-practices aren’t followed according to the most recent research. Surgery techniques, medications, even patient education all have certain elements of evidence that should be followed. Otherwise, nurses will be working with outdated methods and strategies for treatment that could do much more harm than good.

How Do I Find the Evidence for Evidence-Based Practice?

Nursing and other medical journals are widely available to healthcare employees. Your hospital may even provide a free subscription or login to sites that are created specifically for academic journals. Check into this to see if you have access. Otherwise, there are a lot of other websites with a ton of great, useful, and current information, from Medscape to WebMD. You can access information pretty much at any time with your smartphone. If you are having a hard time, check in with your local library or university and see if they have journals you could access.

How Can I Implement Evidence-Based Practice?

EBP is very simple to involve in your everyday work. Sure, the majority of the cases that you will see throughout your day are most likely simple and straightforward, and your facility may even take control of the research and give you what you need to stay updated.

However, there will be times when you come across a patient that has a condition you don’t know much about. It would be easy to pass along the case to someone more familiar with it, but that’s not always an option, and it’s certainly no way to grow as a nurse. So, instead, when you have a few minutes, do a quick Google search of the disease and follow the path to some reliable sources. As you learn, you may find that you want to share what you’ve found with coworkers, thus sharing around the evidence. This will help you and your coworkers put into effect excellent evidence-based practice.