Why Is Evidence-Based Practice Important?

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Evidence-based practice (EBP) is a crucial tool for delivering high-quality patient care in numerous nursing specialties. EBP enables nurses to apply data-backed solutions that incorporate clinical expertise and current research into the decision-making process.

Prospective advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), such as nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists, need to understand why evidence-based practice is important in nursing. They should also build the skills to apply this type of practice in medical settings, which they can acquire through an advanced degree, such as an online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN).

Defining Evidence-Based Practice

EBP combines clinical expertise, scientific evidence, and the patient-professional perspective to build well-rounded health care strategies that can optimize care delivery on a patient-by-patient basis.

A nurse practitioner discusses a patient's chart with the medical team

According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, these are the five steps of the EBP process.

  • Ask a question about clinical care.
  • Obtain current, high-quality research and evidence related to this question.
  • Analyze and evaluate this evidence.
  • Combine this evidence with clinical expertise and patient values to make a care decision.
  • Consider the outcomes and effects of this decision.

What Is Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing?

APRNs can use evidence-based practice to evaluate available research and evidence, and then make quantitative and qualitative decisions for patient care. They also can conduct their own research and note the outcomes of different treatments to inform the decision-making of others.

For example, an APRN might research the best available data about the efficacy of giving someone oxygen to treat a breathing condition. Then they might consider that information along with their own clinical expertise and the wishes of the patient to determine the next steps in care. An advanced practice nurse might also contribute to EBP by noting for future reference how a patient with that condition responds to being given oxygen.

Additionally, by championing this method of decision-making in patient care, nursing leaders can create a culture of inquiry. This type of culture encourages the use of best-available evidence to inform a variety of decisions in the nursing environment — from staffing concerns to revenue shortfalls.

Benefits of Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing

Why is evidence-based practice important in nursing? EBP holds benefits for patients and nurses as well as for health care in general. Following are some benefits of evidence-based practice for nurses.

Empowering Nurses

A 2020 article in Nurse Lead indicates EBP’s benefits are even greater when nursing leaders are a driving force in implementing the approach. Nurses who use evidence-based practice are empowered to contribute to research and apply tested methods, while discarding unproven approaches.

Increasing Transparency

EBP helps nurses avoid “cookbook” medicine, which relies only on a standard set of steps without considering other components of evidence-based care. Basing care on research-backed, quantifiable data makes it easy to share the reasoning behind approaches to treatment.

Improving Care

Treatment that considers research and proven methods for improving care often yields high-quality outcomes. A 2020 article in the Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, for example, provides evidence of what can happen when medical professionals put EBP to work to address a health care concern. The article tells of a clinic that employed evidence-based practices to improve flagging flu vaccination rates. The result was a 597% increase in vaccination rates.

How Evidence-Based Practice Is Used in Nursing

EBP can be used to deliver care strategies that focus on a specific area of patient treatment. MSN degree programs can enable nursing professionals to advance their careers with coursework that prepares them to apply EBP as they fill in-demand roles in the growing health care industry.

The following are among the most common positions for nursing specialization — and ways EBP might enhance care delivery in each.

Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

This specialization covers the diagnosis and treatment of critical medical conditions in adults in an acute care setting. Adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioners (AGACNPs) employ advanced diagnostics and an understanding of the effects of illness or injury. They could rely on EBP to determine best approaches to treat acute medical conditions such as strokes.

Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner

Adult gerontology primary care nurse practitioners (AGPCNPs) provide primary care related to chronic illness and aging, including the management of several types of medication to treat a single condition. These APRNs might use EBP to further studies about chronic illnesses that progress through the lifetime, or to learn more about late-in-life illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease.

Family Nurse Practitioner

Students in the family nurse practitioner (FNP) specialization develop skills and knowledge to work with patients of all ages in a family practice environment. FNPs may use EBP to better understand research behind hereditary illnesses and treatment solutions for family members of different ages.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

This specialization focuses on various health needs and issues of children. Pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) may use EBP to uncover data about innate illnesses or illnesses that develop in young patients, and how they can receive the least invasive care.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Students in this specialization train to provide care to mental health clients across the lifespan using contemporary psychotherapy modalities and knowledge of psychopharmacology. Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) may use EBP to make data-backed diagnoses for patients, taking into account past evidence of related illnesses and patient preferences for treatment.

Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner

The women’s health nurse practitioner (WHNP) specialization covers care practices — including primary, gynecological, and obstetrical health care — for women at all life stages. For example, WHNPs may use EBP to consult current research about the risk of breast cancer in young women and decide on the most effective screening solutions for individual patients.

The Challenges of Implementing EBPs

APRNs who seek to deploy EBP care strategies in a clinical environment may run into various roadblocks. In a review of EBP in long-term care facilities, a 2020 article in American Nurse noted that inadequate training in EBP and lack of administrative and staff buy-in are among the obstacles to successfully implementing evidence-based practice.

Other challenges include lack of understanding by leadership about why evidence-based practice is important, lack of resources, and regulations in a health care facility that may hinder the practice. It’s crucial for APRNs to navigate these changes so EBP strategies can be implemented efficiently and effectively. The American Nurse article recommended that nursing leaders set the tone for encouraging evidence-based practice by fostering staff participation and sharing clinical expertise.

What Are the Skills Nurses Need to Implement EBPs?

Nurses need a range of skills to effectively implement and govern EBP strategies in a health care environment. They should have strong leadership skills in creating and proposing new solutions for patients. They need to be able to analyze research, solve problems, and make complex decisions based on large quantities of evidence and data. Nurses must also be adept at communicating their findings and ideas to patients, families, and colleagues in the health care facility.

Develop EBP Skills and Knowledge

The Regis College online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program provides prospective nurses with the knowledge and skills to excel in overseeing EBP care strategies in a health care setting. Students work with active nursing professionals to learn current medical practices and techniques, and learn ways to improve patient outcomes across a range of specialties.

Discover what the Regis College online Master of Science in Nursing program has to offer, and start building your advanced nursing career today.

 

Recommended Readings

ANCC vs AANP: Understanding the Benefits of Certifications

Nurse Administrator vs. Nurse Practitioner: What’s the Difference?

What Kind of Nurse Should I Be? Examining Advanced Practice Nursing Paths

 

Sources:

American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, Evidence-Based Practice

American Nurse, “Implementing Evidence-Based Practice in Long-Term Care”

American Physical Therapy Association, Evidence-Based Practice & Research

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Evidence-Based Practice: What It Is and Why It Matters”

Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, “Evidence-Based Interventions Cause Multifold Increase of Influenza Immunization Rates in a Free Clinic”

Nurse Lead, “Evidence-Based Decision-Making for Nurse Leaders”Regis College, Online Master of Science in Nursing

The Nest, “What Are the Benefits of Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing?”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners