When nurses exercise evidence-based practice (EBP), they are using the most up-to-date research and information to improve health outcomes. Every day in the practice setting, nurses encounter problems, questions and patient needs requiring good decision-making skills. While some nurses will examine clinical questions by applying a systematic PICO EBP process, all nurses working with a variety of populations can implement EBP to provide quality patient care.

Nevada State College’s online Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program emphasizes EBP strategies to fully equip healthcare professionals with necessary skills.

What Is EBP?

Florence Nightingale is credited with the idea of delivering evidence-based care in the mid-1800s when she aimed to improve hygiene for Crimean War soldiers in unsanitary conditions. EBP is a problem-solving approach to clinical decision-making and care.

Nurses need to identify the three major components that create EBP guidelines: the best research evidence, clinical expertise and the patient values and preferences.

From these key elements, levels of evidence rate different interventions based on the type of evidence and industry expert opinions. Finally, nurses need to choose interventions that incorporate EBP components to improve patient outcomes:

  1. Best Research Evidence

Nurses need to contribute best practices that may lead to EBP. When you have a best practice, you need to disseminate it both internally at your organization and externally to the greater healthcare community. This communication could involve a poster, presentation at a conference, newsletter or peer-reviewed article.

The best available research is just that: “best” and “available.” One of the concerns and barriers of implementing EBP is finding and applying research. Not all interventions result from randomized controlled trials, systemic reviews or meta-analyses; some simply become standard best practices. For example, ginger is often an effective intervention for nausea, yet there are no large, well-designed trials.

  1. Clinical Expertise

Further nursing education can help you prioritize and select care strategies. Clinical expertise refers to nurses’ education, experience and clinical skills. Nurses need intense academic and clinical training, including clinical experience and knowledge, to critically appraise evidence and apply knowledge for sound critical decision-making. A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) helps nurses learn more about EBP processes, research and the benefits to patients and nurses.

  1. Patient Values and Preferences

Nurses must customize interventions for each patient. Tailor your interventions based on the patient’s values and preferences. Nurses need to consider individual patients’ needs and cultural considerations from the shared input of the patient and their caregivers. What works in one situation may not work in another.

What Are Levels of Evidence?

Understanding evidence levels is the cornerstone of decision-making. Levels of evidence are a hierarchy system of classifying information. There are often three to five levels with strong instructions on the highest level of evidence. Nurses can use clearly defined levels of evidence to ensure that patients receive the best possible care.

For example, the National Comprehensive Network (NCCN) and the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) provide evidence-based guidelines in oncology. NCCN expert guidelines include instructions for cancer treatment; detection, prevention and risk reduction; and supportive care guidelines. Tumor-specific treatment guidelines are updated frequently with new drug approvals or indications. Nurses can use NCCN guidelines for many purposes. Still, one helpful strategy is to review the policies to ensure that patients in rural areas receive the same care as comprehensive cancer centers. In addition to healthcare professional guidelines, NCCN offers free patient guidelines in several languages.

Nurses can use the ONS symptom interventions and guidelines for common cancer treatment-related side effects for quality patient care and teaching. They are easy to follow given that evidence levels reflect stoplight colors:

  • Green: recommended for practice, likely to be effective
  • Yellow: benefits balanced with harm, effectiveness not established
  • Red: effectiveness unlikely

For instance, exercise is the only intervention “recommended for practice” in the ONS guidelines. Empowered with this knowledge, nurses can encourage all patients, even those without a cancer diagnosis, to increase their activity to increase energy levels.

EBP is critical for patient care to improve healthcare delivery and strengthen outcomes. It is also essential for building nurse resilience to reduce staff stress, turnover and burnout. In addition, EBP guidelines help nurses adapt to the ever-changing challenges of healthcare today, especially during a global pandemic when nurses are following the best available current information.

During this healthcare transformation, EBP can contribute to the overall success of nurses’ careers and patient outcomes. Every nurse must have a foundation in EBP as well as a thorough understanding of the impact of using proven evidence-based interventions. This foundation makes BSN degree programs increasingly important.

Learn more about Nevada State College’s online RN to BSN program.