Evidence-based practice (EBP) is a foundational approach to the nurse's role in healthcare while improving patient outcomes. According to the Journal of Professional Nursing, nurses employ EBP by bringing medical research into their practice in a patient-centric way.
The results are in on utilizing research: EBP consistently improves the delivery of healthcare and patient outcomes, reduces the geographical differences in care and trims costs. It has been found to help with burnout as well; nurses who utilize EBP report increased job satisfaction. In order to compete in the job market and ensure the best quality of patient care, nurses need to develop research skills.
The Research Process
As a nurse or aspiring nurse, your focus is on patient care — why should you become an academic as well? If you are motivated to improve conditions for your patients, you've taken the first step in the research process, according to Nursing Education Network. The research question you choose to pursue should be motivated by your own nursing experience.
Once you have a question in mind — a problem that needs a solution — conduct a literature review, looking through existing findings to develop a rationale for your research. Next, design your study. Determine what data needs to be collected and if this is a quantitative or qualitative study. After you have designed your study, approach the ethics committee at your facility to ensure it is in compliance.
When your study begins, so does the data collection. Your statistical methods will need to be documented along with the setting and participants. As your results come into focus, compare them against existing literature on your study topic. These comparisons will give your study context as you prepare it for publication.
Levels of Evidence
Not all evidence rises to the same level, and having this understanding is key to incorporating research into your nursing practice. A survey of the levels of evidence and the part they play in EBP published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery points out that the original description of levels of evidence dates from a 1979 report from the Canadian Task Force on the Periodic Health Examination. The system of evidence rating they developed placed randomized controlled trials (RCTs) at the highest level and expert opinions at the lowest.
Many other organizations and journals have drafted their own variations on this classification system in the following years. RCTs are consistently at or near the top of these systems, while expert opinions are frequently at the bottom. Reflections on Nursing Leadership observes that practices steeped in tradition rather than research can reduce the overall quality of care. In other words, the better the quality of the evidence behind EBP, the better the patient outcome will be.
Bringing EBP into Your Practice
There are several factors to keep in mind as you bring EBP into your nursing practice. There are many steps to take, including evaluating evidence and publishing your findings. The rewards, both to the patients under your immediate care and to the nursing profession worldwide, make this undertaking well worth your time and effort. And fortunately, you don't have to jump into the fray alone, figuring it out as you go.
For registered nurses (RNs) who are ready to advance to the next level of their education and pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, the online RN to BSN program offered by Northern Kentucky University (NKU) can provide not only an invaluable degree and the career advancement that can come along with it, but the know-how to tackle research.
One of the core courses of the online RN to BSN program is Nursing Research, described as "an introduction to nursing research, focusing on the fundamentals of the research process, levels of evidence, and quality of evidence for nursing practice." This course and the RN to BSN program overall will equip you to navigate the changing face of nursing practice and implement EBP.
The tools available to improve patient care and outcomes while reducing costs are myriad. Availing yourself of them is within grasp. All that remains is your will and effort to take the next steps in your career as a BSN.
Learn more about NKU's online RN to BSN program.
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