The ABCs of Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing

When thinking about nurses, most picture nurturing, bustling middle-aged women in a white uniform constantly carrying around fresh sheets or fluffy pillows. Nurses are often thought of “assistants” or “helpers” for physicians. In reality, nurses are professionals with an in-depth, scientific knowledge of human anatomy and physiology, the latest in medical technology, and the most recent research into diseases and treatments. The nursing professional also has its own unique body of scientific knowledge. So, while many consider nurses to be glorified assistants, the truth is that nurses have incredible knowledge and skills relating to human health. Because of this high standard of excellence and ability, it is absolutely crucial that nursing care is founded in the latest in evidence-based practice. If you are not sure exactly what this entails, keep reading for a brief overview what of evidence-based practice in nursing entails.

What is Evidence-Based Practice?

Evidence-based practice, or EBP, is defined as professional practices that are based on validated scientific evidence and experts’ thoughts found through research. In nursing, this means that it is a nurse’s duty to perform care for patients to the best of their ability using nursing interventions brought forth by scientific research and no not according to their own opinions or feelings.

Nurses value continuing education and should take the time to stay updated on the latest developments by taking continuing education (CEU) courses and reading journal articles related to their field of practice. Nurses need to stay up-to-date with research, expert opinions, and current cultural contexts. Essentially, evidence-based practice allows nurses to make the best decisions for patient care.

Why Should I Care about Evidence-Based Practice?

As a bedside nurse, the most important duty is providing quality care to patients in need. Everything a nurse does should be aligned with that purpose. In order to provide the best possible quality care, nurses should value evidence-based practices and the research behind them.

Not only will evidence-based practices indicate the most appropriate care and interventions for patients, but it will also warn against practices that are not based in evidence or will cause detriment to patients. For example, it used to be common practice for hydrogen peroxide to be used when cleansing wound. However, hydrogen peroxide was found to be harmful to healing wounds in research studies and subsequently the best practices for wound cleansing changed. Now, nurses use normal saline or soap and water to cleanse wounds, which is considered best practice.

The wound care change in practice is just one example of how nurses use evidence-based practice in our work. If best-practices are not followed and created based on the most recent research many cares and interventions could have detrimental consequences. Procedural techniques, medications, even patient education all have certain elements of evidence that should be followed. If not, nurses could 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. Many hospitals and medical centers even provide a free subscriptions or medical library access that are curated 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, like UpToDate and WebMD, that are all free to access. You can access this information pretty much at any time with a smartphone or a computer.

How Can I Implement Evidence-Based Practice?

EBP can be easy to incorporate into everyday nursing practice. The vast majority of healthcare facilities have strict policies and procedures that are continually updated based on the most recent research. It is in a healthcare facility’s best interest to implement evidence-based practice seamlessly for their nurses.

There may also be times where a nurse is curious about a certain care practice, such as the best way to take a patient’s temperature, and they decide to search for the best practice information on their own. If new information is found, it is best to share it with fellow colleagues. This will help everyone (patients included!) benefit from evidence-based practice.

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Dr. Jenna Liphart Rhoads Ph.D, RN, CNE

Dr. Jenna Liphart Rhoads is a registered nurse and a nurse educator. She earned a BSN from Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing and an MS in nursing education from Northern Illinois University. Jenna earned a Ph.D. in education with a concentration in nursing education from Capella University where she researched the moderation effects of emotional intelligence on the relationship of stress and GPA in military veteran nursing students.