Evidence-based practice, abbreviated as EBP, is a very important concept in the nursing profession. Although many nursing practitioners do not acknowledge it or know enough about it to implement it, it does offer a lot of benefits where patient care is concerned.
What is evidence-based practice?
Evidence-based practice is the practice of making key decisions in the delivery of healthcare based on high-quality research and evidence derived from real-time occurrences in the deployment of healthcare to patients. Simply put, evidence-based practice is the practice of informing decision-making strictly from real-world scientific evidence.
Evidence-based practice is not only applicable to the nursing profession, but is also applicable and should be implemented in every healthcare sector, including pharmacy, therapy, general clinical practice and healthcare research. However, evidence-based practice has also made its way into non-healthcare sectors, where it is called by several terms such as real-world evidence, real-time evidence, and so on. For example, this post on downtime tracking explains how real-time data collection can help to track even the minutest details as to why downtimes occur in companies.
How do nurses make use of evidence-based practice?
Nurses implement evidence-based practice by obtaining data and answering questions from a holistic, patient-centered perspective. To utilize evidence-based practice, nurses and the organizations they work for review everyday data collected from clinical entries, recent high-quality healthcare research, and third-party or external data collection points such as Apple Health and similar software that collect health and fitness data.
Valid research data can also be collected from randomized control trials; case-control, cohort or observational studies; and personal experiences from patients and healthcare practitioners during clinical practice. The goal is to utilize the most credible data and research sources available in order to derive the needed evidence.
Cleveland Clinic recognizes that there are five steps to implementing evidence-based practice. These steps are also referred to as the ‘Five As of Evidence-Based Practice’. They are ask, acquire, appraise, apply, and assess.
- Ask: Ask questions that will help to generate needed answers. As a nurse, your organization will most likely have a structure for doing this. Typically, you would be formulating questions about the patient, their health state, the applied intervention, and the outcome of the intervention.
- Acquire: Acquire the right evidence needed to answer those questions. The right evidence must be credible, quality and recent, as outcomes can vary over time due to rapidly evolving circumstances.
- Appraise: Appraise the answers to your questions and all the pieces of evidence collected. Determine if they are quality and if they have any potential value to offer.
- Apply: After identifying the most valuable evidence, apply it by making intelligent deductions and actionable clinical steps.
- Assess: Evaluate the results of applying your decisions to the situation of the patient or to the general delivery of healthcare in your organization.
The process of utilizing evidence-based practice can be done individually when examining a patient’s health outcome, or it can be done at the organizational level when examining a series of healthcare practices and patients’ outcomes.
What are the benefits of evidence-based practice?
The use of evidence-based practice in the nursing profession has evolved over the years, making the benefits in the field of healthcare delivery more extensive. Evidence-based practice can help nurses identify the needs of patients, how to better attend to them, and how to create an environment that brings positive results from healthcare delivery.
The benefits of evidence-based practice are discussed below.
Helps to prioritize the needs of patients
Using evidence collected from research and questions that are directed to patients and their relations can provide nurses with the right set of information that will help them prioritize the needs of their patients. As nurses work to cater to the health needs of their patients, it is important that they do this while keeping the physical, emotional and social needs of their patients in mind. For example, proper research in evidence-based practice can help determine if a particular healthcare routine is causing physical pain to the patient even when it is bringing the desired results.
On the other hand, nurses can also figure out if the emotional and social needs of their patients are being attended to while they are being nursed to sound health. Does the healthcare delivery style favor the patient’s interaction with friends and family members? Are patients hurt that their nurses have not invested so much time in getting to know about how they are faring emotionally compared with how they are faring physically? Evidence-based practice will help to answer these questions so that nurses can better prioritize the needs of their patients when delivering healthcare.
Promotes the delivery of quality healthcare services
You (or your organization) may think that you are already doing your best at providing quality healthcare services. However, routine evidence-based research will always prove otherwise. Those routine practices will prove that there will always be better ways of doing things and they can help you discover what those better ways are.
You may be able to discover from research that some practices are doing more harm than good and then work toward eliminating them. Or you may discover that already existing healthcare practices are not efficient enough and should be improved on. Evaluating the results of your research can inform you on how you can improve on these procedures in order to deliver healthcare services that are of the best quality.
Utilizing evidence-based practice can help nurses save time as they are able to discover procedures that are not driving any results or discover other procedures that are less time-consuming. For example, it is possible that a certain practice has always been routine in patient-care delivery. However, from research, nurses may be able to discover that doing away with such activities would have no negative impact on the health outcomes of patients. With that discovery, they will be able to save time by focusing only on the essential activities that drive positive results.
A perfect example of these would be the case of nurses previously spending up to 30 minutes each day on bathing patients and/or changing their dressings. However, this stopped after it was discovered from research that in most cases, it was much better to leave dressings for longer without changing them, and that not bathing patients daily would not impact healthcare outcomes. Of course, there would be exceptions to these depending on the situation of the patient and other factors. However, this discovery from the use of evidence-based practice has helped nurses to save time, which can be invested in doing other things.
Evidence-based practice may reveal to you that patients are concerned about healthcare costs. To be able to provide subsidized healthcare delivery, healthcare organizations would need to improve their activities and leverage procedures that are more cost-effective. Again, evidence-based research can help to achieve this. Research can help you focus on the right things and discard unnecessary things, and this can help save costs. Also, evidence-based research can help you compare the options available for achieving the same results, so you can identify the most cost-effective of them.
As a nurse, your safety is just as important as the safety of your patient. The same applies to your health. Evidence-based practice helps to determine better procedures for ensuring the safety of nurses when interacting with patients so that they do not become victims of the same health conditions that their patients have.
For example, evidence-based research helped to identify that putting on protective clothing and frequent washing of hands can help in infection control among healthcare workers. This discovery has helped in the design of all the protective innovations we know today – face masks, safety goggles, headwear, and others.
At the same time, evidence-based research can help to inform you of healthcare practices that may not be all that safe for patients. For example, while certain drugs may be effective for improving a particular health condition, they may trigger side effects that are not safe for patients. Evidence-based practice can also be used to examine the safety of machines used in healthcare delivery, if they are in any way related to the health issues that patients face when they are being treated for a particular health condition.
Evidence-based practice provides lots of benefits for nurses and other professionals in the field of healthcare delivery. It ensures that core decisions are taken strictly from the evidence that is available. Evidence-based research also provides a holistic approach to data collection. All possible perspectives are considered to promote the good of the patient, the healthcare practitioners, and their organizations.