Evidence-based practice (EBP) is a holistic, individualized approach to health care delivery. Health care professionals who use this approach apply patient values, relevant and proven evidence, and clinical expertise to every aspect of care delivery, with the goal of providing optimal care and improving patient outcomes.
Among its many benefits, EBP can lead to changing a policy that’s been standard for decades. An example is the revision of guidelines addressing sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Original recommendations had babies sleeping on their stomachs in case they vomited and choked while sleeping. But recent research into SIDS has led to the recommendation that all babies now sleep on their backs until they turn 1 year old.
Nurses who have earned a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree are in a unique position to develop and implement EBP-driven strategies in nursing. They are also in a position to advocate for the importance of EBP to the next generation of nursing professionals — a role that is crucial, as new nurses may not be equipped with sufficient training in the value of EBP. To promote EBP effectively, however, it’s crucial for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) to fully understand why evidence-based practice is so important to the future of health care.
What Is Evidence-Based Practice?
Evidence-based practice is a process that draws information from current scientific evidence to build care delivery strategies. It is ultimately a holistic process that integrates three key elements: scientific research, a health care professional’s own expertise, and the perspective and preferences of the patient. This confluence of elements within the context of clinical practice makes it possible for nurses to make the most informed care delivery decisions possible.
Each of these elements contains various nuances that can ultimately add depth to patient care. For instance, the scientific evidence can come from two sources:
- External – The best available data and information pulled from scientific literature, such as journals
- Internal – Information and data generated from observations made within the patient/provider dynamic
Health care professionals such as advanced practice nurses can also lean on their own clinical expertise to build an EBP strategy. This expertise includes their training, past professional experiences and essential skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving.
The patient perspective also provides a unique layer to EBP. Personal values, expectations and priorities can combine with specific cultural behaviors and traditions to influence care delivery in a way that ultimately respects and honors the patient.
Each of these elements must be present to deliver true EBP-informed patient care. Removing or even lessening the impact of one of the elements can lead to information gaps within the care delivery process. These gaps may be small or subtle, but they may be substantial enough to make a noticeable difference in care quality.
The Advantages of Using Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing
APRNs who know how to apply EBP within their care delivery strategies cultivate several benefits that can directly influence their care quality.
- It keeps them constantly updated with the current medical protocols.
- It improves their decision-making process.
- It boosts the efficiency of patient recovery.
- It provides a better understanding of the risks behind certain treatments.
- It gives patients a more active role in planning their care.
Each of these benefits points toward one goal: potentially improving patient outcomes. This is why evidence-based practice is important. However, its benefits can only be fully realized if the APRN understands how to use EBP correctly. To do so, they must follow certain protocols for proper EBP implementation. These protocols can be divided into seven steps.
- Create a spirit of inquiry.
- Ask questions in a “PICO(T)” format – Patient, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome, (sometimes) Time.
- Gather the most relevant evidence possible.
- Appraise the evidence.
- Integrate the best evidence with clinical expertise and patient preferences.
- Evaluate outcomes.
- Disseminate outcomes.
These steps are designed to guide nurses toward ensuring their EBP process equally includes all three of its core components. This in turn can help make sure the best level of care is provided to each patient at all times.
Using Skills from a DNP Degree in Evidence-Based Practice
The steps behind proper EBP utilization require a specific skill set to properly execute them. Earning a DNP can deepen the core competencies needed to build EBP strategies around these steps.
DNP-equipped nurses possess the deep analytical skills to assess scientific evidence and evaluate its effects within the context of individualized patient care. They also have strong critical-thinking skills to help them piece together the three components of EBP in the most effective, efficient way possible. Their problem-solving skills can also help them refine issues that may otherwise disrupt the EBP process. Finally, DNP nurses possess the leadership skills to guide other nurses toward integrating EBP-related changes and improvements within their own EBP strategies.
Become a Leader in Today’s Nursing Industry
Why is evidence-based practice important in health care? When properly executed, it could lead to better patient care and better patient outcomes. However, this is best accomplished by personnel equipped with the skills to build effective EBP-driven care strategies. Nurse leaders with DNP degrees can use their knowledge and specialized skills to guide their staffs toward providing care delivery strategies that consistently achieve optimal results.
Duquesne University’s online Doctor of Nursing Practice program and its concentrations can help you develop the skill set to build effective EBP strategies. Our DNP curriculum delivers coursework focused on evaluating research and translating evidence to practice, giving you the opportunity to grow your expertise, so you can move health care forward with confidence.
Learn how we can help you become a strong leader in a critical industry.