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Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing

Instructor: Jennifer Mitchell

Jennifer is a clinical professor for nursing students in critical care and has several years of experience in teaching nursing.

Healthcare is always changing and evolving. As such, nurses must constantly update their practice to keep up with change and ensure the best patient outcomes. This lesson discusses evidence-based practice and how it affects nursing.

What is Evidence-Based Practice?

The best care provided by healthcare professionals is evidence based. So, what is evidence-based practice? It's using current knowledge and concrete evidence to make decisions about how to care for patients.

This means that research is performed by nursing experts on how to care for patients in ways that ensure the best outcomes. This information is published and disseminated to currently practicing nurses through education, practice, and published literature. Now let's look a bit more closely.

Nursing Education is Key!

Nursing students undergo rigorous training in order to safely and effectively care for patients. When these students graduate, they are usually the most up to date on the best ways to assess a patient, perform nursing procedures, give medications, and communicate with healthcare providers.

So you might ask, why is evidence-based practice so important if nurses are fresh out of nursing school? Well, nurses graduate every year from different schools with different teachers. The nurses teaching them likely attended nursing school many years prior, so the information they learned is probably considered outdated.

This is where evidence-based practice comes in. For example: Years ago, nurses were taught that the best way to verify a feeding tube was in the correct place was to use a large syringe to push air into the tube while listening over the stomach with their stethoscope. If they heard bubbling with their stethoscope over the stomach, the feeding tube was in the right place. Over the years, however, nurse researchers have found with practice and experience that after placing a feeding tube, a large syringe must be used to pull out fluid from the stomach. The pH of the fluid is then tested to verify acidity, and an x-ray is done to see and verify the tube's location in the stomach. This is an example of evidence-based practice.

There are new articles being published all the time that discuss new and different ways of practicing nursing that are in line with today's healthcare environment. Effective nursing instructors read these articles and update their own practice in order to properly teach new nursing students.

Keeping up With Evidence-Based Practice

So how do nurses working in doctor's offices and hospitals keep up with the times and evidence-based practice? There are several ways to do this. Nurses in hospitals have professional development specialists (PDS) who are specially trained nurses with master's degrees who provide ongoing education and training. The PDS performs literature reviews to ensure the information they present is current and evidence based.

In doctor's offices, there are education coordinators who perform functions similar to the PDS to keep the nursing staff educated on current practices. Nurses are taught new and updated ways to perform nursing skills that are safer and lead to better results. These skills include the use of medical supplies to start IVs and keep them in place, equipment to help with moving patients safely and protecting nurses' backs, and even how to provide life-saving treatment in the case of an emergency.

Why is it so important for nurses to update their practice? Because each year there are new medications, new medical supplies, new treatments, and even new illnesses; if nurses didn't keep up with the evidence, they wouldn't be able to treat you safely and effectively!

Published Literature is Essential

What is this literature we keep talking about? Well, it's books, journals, internet articles, and updates published by professional nursing organizations and medical practice organizations. These are all sources of great information for nurses that are current and based on patient care.

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