Instinct is a valuable asset. But, there are situations when instincts cannot be surefire, and hard evidence comes into play — especially in healthcare, where one wrong move can have devastating consequences.
What Is Evidence-Based Practice?
Duke University Medical Center defines evidence-based practice (EBP) as “the integration of clinical expertise, patient values, and the best research evidence into the decision-making process for patient care.”
When using EBP strategies, nurses and other healthcare professionals translate proven research findings into clinical practice — focusing on each patient as a unique individual. From a registered nurse’s perspective, there are several positive patient- and clinical-focused results of taking this approach:
- enhanced patient experience
- reduced healthcare costs
- better population health outcomes
- robust knowledge base among nursing staff
- improved work life and well-being among healthcare staff
While each is essential, improved health outcomes serve as the foundational element for achieving EBP’s objectives. Healthier, happier patients equate to fewer clinical costs and greater satisfaction among those who care for those patients.
How Does EBP Improve Patient Outcomes?
Individuals with EBP knowledge can revise previously “standardized” medical practices that have been in place for years. Individuals who use EBP practices can also help eliminate outdated supplies, equipment or products that are no longer necessary — or suggest different approaches to specific techniques and procedures.
One great example of EBP relates to the recommendations surrounding safe sleep for infants. For many years, experts recommended that babies sleep on their stomachs. However, research has proven that the safest way for babies to sleep is on their backs. This method prevents risks such as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
While there are many other instances of EBP implementation, one that is still top of mind is the response to COVID-19. Because the disease was from a new or “novel” virus, healthcare workers had to quickly adapt to ongoing research — some of which was changing weekly. Nurses have served an important role in advising patients on various protocols. Now that vaccines are available, RNs are also critical players in counseling individuals on safety and efficacy.
With conflicting information circulating throughout the media, RNs must root their care protocols in scientific research while using critical thinking and analytical reasoning.
Connecting Research to Practice
In theory, EBP advances healthcare. However, for it to be truly effective, RNs must connect research to practice. This approach can be a challenge for some healthcare institutions. Lack of time, leadership buy-in and understanding among hospital administration consistently serve as obstacles.
Still, none are insurmountable. By relying on training, skills and learned expertise, RNs can take EBP strategies into their own hands. EBP strategy is about using clear evidence to make the most thoughtful clinical decision possible in order to achieve the best clinical outcomes.
Bolstering Your Skills
Many nursing programs, especially those dedicated to the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, have heightened their focus on preparing RNs for EBP practices. For example, the RN to BSN online program at Youngstown State University (YSU) includes a seven-week course devoted entirely to EBP. Additional courses supplement EBP’s goals, focusing on research roles, nursing leadership, patient advocacy and the current issues permeating healthcare today.
Ultimately, YSU’s online nursing program prepares RNs to move forward with an EBP mindset and the clinical reasoning that “drives a culture of safety to better serve patients, colleagues, and the environment.”
Evidence-based practice has been proven through research to be an optimal means for care. However, as other healthcare practices continue to advance, EBP will always accompany their implementation. Therefore, the best way for RNs to obtain the necessary skills required for successful EBP is to invest in education that recognizes its importance.
Learn more about Youngstown State University’s online RN to BSN program.