Nursing Research and Evidence-Based Practice

When you consider the importance of nurses in today’s healthcare system, you might not think of interpreting and utilizing research. However, nurses play a critical role in implementing, evaluating and adapting care models at every step of the healthcare process. Nursing research and evidence-based practice are essential to positive patient outcomes as well as ensuring safe and effective care for everyone. Let’s take a look at how to conduct nursing research, why it is important, and why evidence-based practice is crucial to healthy and happy patients.

How do you conduct nursing research and why?

Conducting nursing research is similar to performing any other kind of research with a few distinct differences. Let’s look at a general example of utilizing evidence-based care practices in nursing.

Ask clinical questions

The first step when conducting research is always to think about the question you want to see answered. Consider the clinical questions you want to answer with the research. From population health practices to more specific patient-care approaches, there are many topics that can be explored via nursing research.

Review the available literature

Once the question has been crystalized, the next step is to look at existing literature and begin the research process. While some research is based on conducting new studies, most nurses will pull from existing research to find the evidence that can shape their best practices. To do this, nurses often have access to healthcare-specific search engines which allow them to easily access reports and literature.

Combine evidence with hands-on nursing

You might think that finding the evidence to answer a clinical question is the most difficult part of conducting nursing research, but it’s actually combining research with hands-on care. While theoretical questions might prove useful in a classroom, in the actual practice of nursing, hypotheses must prove themselves useful during care in order to truly enhance the quality of care in the long term. This step requires nurses to combine knowledge and practical work in individual patient consultations.

Implement care techniques

Once research has been combined with expert care techniques in hands-on nursing, it’s time to implement those care procedures into the existing care model. This is where the sweeping changes, be they local or broad, take place. Nurses must take their experiences and research and turn them into opportunities for innovation in patient care and safety.

Assess effectiveness

Even after the new care model has taken effect and is being used on a wide scale, the research is not over. Nurses must assess the effectiveness of the changes constantly to ensure that the consequences are good and not harming patients or other nurses. Continuous evaluation is critical to producing positive changes and improving patient outcomes.

What is evidence-based nursing practice?

Evidence-based nursing, also referred to as evidence-based practice (EBP) in nursing, is the process of determining best practices in healthcare through the use of research and studies. The conclusions that are drawn are taken from evidence, hence the name. In general, evidence-based practice is used to help nurses and doctors alike explore the impact of various techniques and approaches before they implement sweeping changes in healthcare.

There are two main examples of EBP in nursing: broad and local. EBP on a broad level looks at evidence-based practice for large groups of people. This could include triaging procedures, for example, or proper wound care, as these affect patients in general, regardless of their reason for visiting the hospital. Making a broad change affects many different patients with many different needs, so it is important to carefully research the impact of such changes and determine their benefits and drawbacks before altering the current best practices.

On a local level, or perhaps a more specialized level, EBP concerns medical niches. Patients undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, for example, can benefit from very specialized EBP research. This kind of research looks at the specific needs of a small subset of patients with unique struggles and challenges and determines what changes could help these patients thrive.

Regardless of whether the changes are broad or specialized, it is important to ensure that all changes are based on evidence rather than a gut instinct or feeling.

The role of evidence-based care in nursing

While the principles of evidence-based practice hold true across many different categories of medical professionals, it is important to note that nurses are in a unique position to effect change and even gather information as they work. Nurses are excellently placed to practice evidence-based care, in fact, as they typically interact with patients more than other healthcare professionals, they generally have a more thorough understanding of their emotional, physical and mental needs.

EBP gives nurses the tools they need to truly customize the healing process to a patient’s unique needs and goals.

Why is evidence-based practice important?

There are several reasons why evidence-based care is so important in nursing. Let’s examine the benefits of evidence-based nursing practice for patients:

Innovation motivation

One of the biggest reasons that evidence-based nursing is so important in patient care is the culture that it promotes. When research is utilized to make improvements in patient care, healthcare professionals at the facility in question are more likely to ask questions and research the best possible patient care methods. This, in turn, can help improve nursing care as well as help managers better work with their teams and empower their nurses to solve critical care concerns.

Embrace change

Implementing evidence-based changes in care models is also important because it creates a more flexible workforce. This is helpful in many industries but is particularly crucial in patient care. Nurses don’t always have the luxury of sticking to the principles they learned in school. Sometimes, change is critical to improving patient outcomes, and nurses who are able to adapt to new changes in care techniques create a more mobile and flexible work environment. The more changes are made and adopted, the better the workforce becomes at adapting to future needs and evidence-based practices.

Improving clinical and research proficiency

While caring for patients is obviously the most important element of many nursing positions, nurses must pay attention to professional competency too. In particular, nurses with the skills and resources to build research and clinical proficiency are key to expanding our knowledge base regarding nursing. Eventually, these nurses become the go-to person for their areas of expertise and provide evidence-based advice for revolutionizing patient care.

More satisfied nurses

Happy, content nurses are in the best possible position to provide world-class care, so job satisfaction is crucial. Luckily, nurses in general are fairly satisfied with their work, but there’s always room for improvement. Evidence-based nursing gives nurses a better understanding of their jobs and the positive things they can do for their patients. Building expertise in areas that interest them and exercising independence in making decisions that help their patients raises satisfaction in the long term as it establishes nurses as important medical professionals rather than simply assistants.

With more confidence in their abilities and more knowledge on which to base decisions, nurses practicing evidence-based care practices are also better equipped to adapt their nursing techniques to suit individual patient needs. This allows them to tailor the healthcare experience to their patient’s specific concerns and challenges.

What are some examples of evidence-based nursing?

Nurses routinely combine practical, hands-on experience with investigation to enhance standard care procedures, which then often become part of nursing education. We’ve explored evidence-based nursing research and care practices in depth, but you might still need specific examples to help illustrate the importance of evidence in healthcare. This section will explore evidence-based nursing examples.

Improved immunization rate

Immunizations are important for maintaining public health at all ages, but sometimes motivating patients to receive them is difficult. Recent research published in 2020 investigated effective interventions for increased immunization rates. They found that a combination of better communication, improved patient access and a streamlined workflow could be successful. Clinics implementing these practices experienced a nearly 600% increase in immunizations. Nurses and other healthcare professionals took a clinical issue and explored literature and past research to create a new standard of healthcare, and patients received better, more effective care as a result.

ICU sleep protocols

Another example of evidence-based nursing making a difference in the patient experience is the creation of effective sleep protocols in the ICU. In 2020, researchers sought a way to reduce sleep deprivation in ICU wards so that patients can recover more quickly and effectively. They found that implementing sleep protocols was one of the most cost-effective solutions to the issue and recommended that healthcare facilities implement them in order to improve patient care. This particular care model has been increasing in popularity over the years and, if widely implemented, could raise the patient experience for some patients tenfold.

How do you learn how to research?

While we outline the basic research process above, the truth is that there is a lot more to master than that. The process isn’t impossible or even overly complicated, but it requires in-depth instruction and a lot of practice. Nursing education is the ideal place to learn how to conduct effective and thorough research. There are a number of nursing education options at your disposal, but the best option is an advanced degree.

By completing an advanced degree, sometimes known as an advanced practice degree, nurses are establishing themselves as trustworthy experts in the field. To take this route, the first thing you’ll need to do is finish your undergraduate, or bachelor’s, degree. Once you have completed your undergraduate work, it’s time to move on to advanced coursework.

A master’s degree is usually the next step, and while some people stop there, particularly studious students continue on to complete a post masters DNP degree. One of the foundations of this education is research. The best DNP programs, available through reputable institutions such as the University of Indianapolis, ensure their graduates are well-versed in conducting and using research. Also known as a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree, nurses who complete this in-depth program are prepared for advanced clinical practice needs.

If you are truly interested in nursing research and would like to be at the forefront of new and innovative patient care techniques, the best thing you can do is complete a world-class educational program like the one above. From carrying out new research to interpreting old research and implementing changes on macro and micro levels based on the evidence, today’s nurses are an irreplaceable part of positive and safe patient care in every aspect of the healthcare system.

Nurses’ responsibilities often stretch far beyond helping patients in person and include defining the industry for future generations. If you want to help improve patient outcomes by wading through existing research and possibly working with research teams to conduct original studies and experiments, nursing might be your ideal career. Keep the information above in mind and do some research into the different aspects of nursing as well as which reputable nursing program might be right for you.