By Cooper Nelson
Evidence-based practice (EBP) uses current research to inform care-related decisions. The goal of EBP is to improve patients' overall care and safety while minimizing the costs and variations in health outcomes.
EBP has three main components. It seeks the best outcomes by using the best available external evidence, drawing on caregivers' clinical expertise, and considering input and expectations from patients. The result of this strategy is a holistic treatment plan that combines the patient's wishes with the expertise of healthcare providers.
If you take part in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing program or continue to a Master of Science in Nursing degree, you will study the framework needed to use EBP in your clinical career. In fact, since evidence-based practice is essential in modern medicine, you will learn it regardless of your choice of nursing degree and even if you opt for another healthcare degree program.
Here is a closer look at how evidence-based practice informs clinical care decisions.
Evidence-based decision-making plays a pivotal role in evidence-based practice. However, not all studies produce the same level of evidence. Some take extra steps to test and prove theories. This thorough approach makes such research more reliable.
Four primary levels of evidence are generated from research. These rankings play a role in which evidence providers choose to use when making clinical decisions.
The four EBP levels are:
Level ML (multilevel) is the fourth EBP evidence class. As the name suggests, it contains evidence acquired from more than one of the other levels. Level ML is often applied to complex cases with no clear connection to a specific study.
The knowledge of EBP is essential to nurses and other healthcare professionals because it leads to informed decisions about care. However, the benefits go beyond creating the best chance for a positive outcome.
Here are some of the key advantages of adopting EBP:
Evidence-based practice complements the Triple Aim framework. Triple Aim seeks to improve public health and patient experience while reducing overall healthcare costs. Because evidence-based practice can also help reduce costs and improve the patient experience by streamlining treatment, it achieves similar goals to the Triple Aim approach.
Learn more about EBP’s sister subject, ethics in nursing, on our blog!
Evidence-based practice can be adopted in a variety of healthcare situations. The benefits of this approach are evident in clinical settings. Here are some examples.
In a clinical setting, EBP requires specific steps meant to help healthcare providers arrive at the best decisions.
Evidence-based practice in healthcare fits with the lifelong learning mindset necessary to continue growing as a medical professional. Regardless of the setting or your level of expertise, EBP practitioners use the same steps to arrive at the best medical decision.
The evidence-based practice process begins by asking questions about the patient and their health issues. As a healthcare provider, you have to formulate answerable clinical questions regarding the patient's care. Clinical questions can be about therapy or treatment, diagnosis or prognosis, or cost of care.
These questions are the starting point that will direct your search for evidence to help with your clinical decisions.
The next step involves researching to determine the highest-quality evidence that can provide answers to your questions. You can start with a broad search and focus on quality sources, such as respected medical journals and publications that normally only accept high-quality studies. You can work backward from the most recent studies to earlier research on the subject.
The third step involves analyzing the evidence to determine its relevance, quality, validity, potential impact and applicability to your specific case. In this step, you will look for studies that offer the highest level of proof. Level A evidence, which is supported by fully randomized tests, is the best type of evidence. However, you need to ensure the studies are relevant to your particular questions. If not, you may have to move to Levels B, C or ML.
The goal of this step is to find the highest-quality evidence available for your specific questions.
This step involves incorporating the clinical study findings into your treatment plans for the patient. In this step, nurses and other medical practitioners treating the patient have to consider the evidence and new information obtained from the studies alongside established best practices and their own clinical experience.
During this step, you also need to consider the patient's wishes. EBP requires you to balance these different factors and arrive at treatment or diagnostic decisions.
The EBP process doesn’t stop when you start treatment. In the short term, you need to monitor the patient to see whether your approach is leading to the expected results or whether you need to consider other methods.
You also need to assess the results of your evidence-based decisions and measure how the new practices worked in your specific case. If the treatment was successful, you and your peers can consider using a similar approach in future cases.
One advantage of evidence-based practice is that the results of your decisions can help other healthcare professionals decide what to do (or not do) in similar situations. Therefore, sharing the outcomes of evidence-based practice, whether positive or negative, with other healthcare professionals is the final step in the EBP process.
Sharing also enables other professionals to offer insights and critiques from a neutral perspective. This combined clinical knowledge can improve the overall level of healthcare that patients receive in the future.
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