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Empowering nursing practice: Improving healthcare with evidence-based care practice

evidence-based practice

The introduction of evidence-based practice in healthcare dates back about three decades, and followed the widely popular 1992 publication on the topic. Today, several professional medical organizations recognize this practice as the desired standard for transdisciplinary healthcare providers, including nurses.

The ultimate aim of evidence-based practice is to reduce variations in practice, enhance healthcare quality, improve patient outcomes, and reduce costs. However, there are very few reviews on how impactful this practice can be to healthcare outcomes across different settings and populations.

This article explores how evidence-based practice can serve as the bedrock of excellence in modern healthcare, focusing on the nursing specialization. It examines EBP in depth and highlights how it empowers nurses with the tools to make a tangible difference in the health sector.

Understanding evidence-based practice in nursing

Evidence-based practice is an approach to decision-making and healthcare that incorporates three critical components: the best available evidence from research, clinical competence, and the patient’s value and preference. In combining these components, medical professionals must explore the most current and relevant scientific research, clinical guidelines, and data to make informed healthcare choices and interventions.

Regarding nursing, EBP is a systematic and intentional approach that empowers nurses to deliver care using the most recent research to improve patient safety, health, and well-being. This practice focuses on providing top-quality care while reducing healthcare costs and variations in patient outcomes.

Similar to its fundamental premise, evidence-based practice requires nurses to explore research literature, clinical guidelines, and other evidence sources to determine their validity and compatibility regarding a particular patient’s scenario. Through this process, nurses can identify the best healthcare approach for a patient while understanding the drawbacks and risks associated with specific practices.

Incorporating evidence-based practice into care delivery helps to promote patient-centric care that understands and respects the individuality and preferences of each patient. It has also proven to be a fundamental cornerstone in nursing, propelling positive change and advancement in the field.

The evolution of evidence-based nursing

While the concept of evidence-based nursing might have been introduced into healthcare literature about three decades ago, the earliest demonstrations of evidence-based practice in nursing date back to the 18th century. Most scholars attribute Florence Nightingale’s “Notes on Nursing” as the first literature to outline the framework for EBP in nursing. However, regardless of this framework, nursing practice continued to rely heavily on tradition, authority, and personal experiences in making clinical decisions.

The early 1990s came with a rising emphasis on interpersonal relationships and research, with most nurses also recognizing the importance of healthcare outcomes as opposed to the process. These realizations triggered the need for a more structured and systematic approach centered around the best available evidence and clinical expertise.

Despite this realization, the formal integration of EBP in nursing gained notoriety in the late 20th century, with several organizations and initiatives established to promote its adoption. These initiatives aimed to address the gap between healthcare research and clinical practice by enabling easy access to evidence, enhancing nurses’ appraisal skills, and improving their ability to make evidence-based decisions.

Technology has also played a crucial role in the prominence of EBP. Innovations like the internet and digital databases have improved access to research literature, clinical processes, and systematic reviews, empowering nurses to remain updated with the most current evidence in their specialization.

Today, evidence-based nursing is an integral part of the nursing profession; however, there is a need to implement it more in healthcare settings. A reason for this is the continuous evolution of evidence-based nursing through ongoing research. Most institutions today aim to address this need by developing nursing curricula emphasizing the importance of evidence-based practice.

Fundamental principles of integrating research in care delivery

The increasing internal and external expectations of quality healthcare means it’s no longer sufficient for medical professionals to deliver healthcare only on experience and traditional knowledge. A nurse’s commitment to evidence-based practice is vital for staying updated with advancements and ensuring ideal patient outcomes.

Several principles guide the seamless integration of research into healthcare delivery. We explore these key principles and how they help to improve the standard of nursing practice:

Identifying relevance

Research can only be integrated effectively into care delivery when relevant and aligned with the specific context of patient care. Therefore, nurses must identify pertinent studies focusing on particular patients and their unique needs.

Critical appraisal

As a nurse, you must critically appraise research findings and determine their quality, validity, and applicability to your practice. This approach ensures healthcare decisions are reliable and genuinely evidence-based.

Collaborative approach

Evidence-based practice increasingly emphasizes collaboration among several interdisciplinary teams. Involving healthcare professionals from different specialties can provide diverse perspectives and insights that enrich healthcare strategies with a comprehensive approach.

Patient-centered care

The core foundation of EBP focuses on patient-centered care. As such, integrating research in care delivery should also consider patients’ uniqueness, values, and preferences. With this personalized approach, nurses can enhance patient satisfaction and engagement.

Continuous learning

The need for continuous learning is apparent due to changing patient needs. Similarly, there is a need to embrace a culture of continuous learning regarding EBP as it equips professionals with the knowledge and competency to integrate innovative research into their practice.

Monitoring and evaluation

As with several other innovative healthcare practices, medical professionals must monitor and evaluate the impact of incorporating research findings into their routines. This process helps to assess how effective evidence-based strategies are and identify improvement areas.

Flexibility and adaptation

The dynamic nature of healthcare applies to research, with new ones emerging regularly. Hence, flexibility and adaptability are essential in adjusting healthcare strategies based on the latest evidence.

Ethical considerations

Finally, integrating any research into care delivery must be within ethical principles. These principles include respecting patient autonomy, beneficence, justice, non-maleficence, and more.

Integrating research into care delivery is a critical aspect of evidence-based practice. And recognizing these principles empower medical professionals to improve care delivery and patient outcomes.

Importance of evidence-based practice in nursing

The importance of evidence-based practice in nursing can be understood through the following key points:

Enhancing nursing skills through evidence-based learning

Evidence-based learning is a crucial component and an integral part of EBP. Evidence-based learning is the principle that education practices should be based on the best available scientific evidence rather than tradition, personal judgment, or other influences.

Through evidence-based learning, nurses continuously enhance their competencies, contributing to the overall success and effectiveness of EBP in healthcare settings. One step to achieve this is by engaging in continuing education. The need for evidence-based practice propels professionals to explore learning opportunities, providing them access to the latest research and best practices.

Today, several professional organizations influence EBP in nursing, developing best practice guidelines, networking, and learning opportunities for nurses to stay informed and connected with other professionals. Nurses can also enhance their skills by conducting literature reviews on specific interests, participating in research projects, and applying evidence to clinical scenarios.

By embracing evidence-based learning, nurses can consistently improve their skill set and provide the best possible care for patients. Prospective nurses looking to participate and apply evidence to clinical scenarios can opt for learning opportunities incorporating an NP clinical placement. These placements, facilitated on the nursing practitioner program at Texas Women’s University, allow students to work alongside experienced nurse practitioners, witnessing firsthand how evidence is integrated into decision-making and patient care. By embracing evidence-based learning during these placements, aspiring nurses can cultivate a strong foundation for their professional journey, ensuring they enter the workforce well-prepared to provide the highest standard of care to their patients.

Impact on patient outcome and safety

Evidence-based practice provides nurses with the freedom to integrate both research findings and their clinical expertise. With this collaborative approach, nurses can discover and use current and effective treatment techniques that ensure the best possible patient outcome.

EBP provides evidence-based guidelines and practices that nurses can follow to limit the likelihood of medical errors, ultimately enhancing patient safety. With this practice, nursing professionals can also explore resources and interventions that have proven to be effective in the past. This optimized resource utilization leads to lower healthcare costs and better resource allocation in healthcare institutions.

Evidence-based practice also positively impacts patient outcomes and safety by enhancing personalized care, quicker recovery, reduced hospital readmissions, more effective chronic disease management, improved patient satisfaction, and overall long-term health outcomes.

Ultimately, this practice is a powerful tool in healthcare, propelling improvement in patient care and positively influencing patient outcomes for different medical conditions and settings.

Give patients a role in planning their care.

A fundamental component of evidence-based practice is the patient value and preferences. This aspect places the patient at the center of decision-making in healthcare, acknowledging that each patient is unique and has diverse preferences and needs.

Evidence-based practice prioritizes active patient involvement in their treatment journey by having nurses engage in meaningful conversations with patients about various treatment options. Patients are also encouraged to be part of the decision-making process regarding their health. Through this process, EBP empowers individuals to have a significant role in their recovery, fostering a sense of independence and self-efficacy.

Furthermore, including patients in their recovery plan enhances their understanding and confidence in the care they receive. Evidence-based practice also grants an avenue for patients to advocate for their health, particularly in aspects that healthcare professionals may not recognize.

Adopting a personalized approach to care is crucial in delivering positive health outcomes, improving the patient experience, and enhancing job satisfaction for health professionals. And while there are several strategies to implement and drive forward the personalized care agenda, evidence-based practice remains one of the most effective approaches by providing patients with an active role in their health.

Expand nursing roles to include knowledge translators and advocates

Nurses represent the largest group within the healthcare workforce, making them a crucial component in the healthcare delivery system. The prevalence of nurses, combined with their underlying responsibilities, make them well-positioned to carry out specific tasks, one being knowledge translation.

Knowledge translation is the process of taking evidence-based knowledge from research findings to best practices and integrating them into practical applications in healthcare settings. It also involves disseminating and applying research-based knowledge to improve patient care and outcomes.

With evidence-based practice, nurses serve as knowledge translators by translating research into practice and promoting evidence-based knowledge best practices. It encourages patient engagement, empowers nurses to develop quality improvement initiatives, enhances interdisciplinary collaboration, and contributes to research and innovation.

Aside from expanding nursing roles to include knowledge translators, evidence-based practice encourages nurses to advocate for evidence-based policies at organizational and governmental levels. Embracing EBP also helps provide patients with guidance on how to advocate for and manage their health better.

The future of evidence-based practice in nursing

Evidence-based practice can improve nursing practice and patient outcomes across diverse medical environments. However, solid belief in EBP and its benefits does not necessarily mean it is frequently integrated into daily healthcare practice. While there has been significant adoption of EBP in nursing, more work needs to be done.

One strategy is incorporating evidence-based practice within the nursing curricula. With this, nursing students can learn the value of evidence-based knowledge and understand how to access it, appraise it, and apply it correctly. Ultimately, the future of evidence-based practice in nursing will be dynamic and transformative. With continued advancements in technology, nurses will remain at the forefront of research evidence, technology, and patient-centered principles in delivering high-quality care.

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