Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing and Patient Outcomes

Review the components of evidence-based practice in nursing and patient outcomes and the impact it has on patient safety, care quality and healthcare costs.
Nurses talking in a conference room

As the healthcare industry becomes increasingly complex, nurses are expected to deliver evidence-based care that improves patient outcomes. To help you understand how evidence-based practice can provide superior results for patients, let’s explore the components of evidence-based practice in nursing and patient outcomes, and the impact it has on patient safety, care quality, and healthcare costs.

Components of Evidence-Based Practice

Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) is an essential aspect of today’s healthcare landscape that ensures practitioners provide the best care possible, guided by the available scientific evidence. EBP has three main components: asking the clinical question, searching for the best evidence, and appraising the evidence.

Asking the Clinical Question

Formulating a well-constructed clinical question is the first step in the process of EBP. The goal is to create a question that is clear, focused, and relevant to the patient’s situation. One effective method for this is using the PICO(T) format, which stands for Population, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome, and (optionally) Time.

A PICO(T) question might look something like this: “In adult patients with Type 2 diabetes (Population), does aerobic exercise (Intervention) compared to no exercise (Comparison) result in better glycemic control (Outcome) over a 12-week period (Time)?”

By framing the question in this manner, practitioners can better ensure they are addressing the most critical aspects of the patient’s needs in a comprehensive way.

Searching for the Best Evidence

Once the question has been formulated, the next step is to search for the best available evidence. This involves identifying the most appropriate sources, selecting the right study designs and types of evidence, and synthesizing the information found.

Here are some recommended ways to find the best evidence:

  • Utilize healthcare databases like PubMed, CINAHL, and Cochrane Library
  • Search for systematic reviews, meta-analyses or high-quality clinical guidelines
  • Use appropriate search terms and keywords, derived from the PICO(T) framework
  • Refer to expert opinions and recommendations from professional organizations

Remember to critique the quality of the sources in your search results and to include only credible and relevant evidence in your EBP efforts.

Appraising the Evidence

Appraising the evidence involves evaluating the scientific rigor, validity, and relevance of identified research articles or sources. This is a crucial step in confirming whether the current evidence is applicable to the patient’s situation, and if it merits inclusion in clinical decision-making.

Here are some essential considerations when appraising evidence:

  • Evaluate the study design for methodological quality (randomized controlled trials, cohort studies, etc.)
  • Assess the external validity, or the generalizability of the study results to your patient’s population
  • Examine the internal validity, such as control for biases and confounding factors
  • Consider the magnitude and clinical significance of the reported outcomes

By rigorously appraising the identified evidence, you will be able to select the most pertinent, reliable, and applicable information for your patient.

Application of Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing

Evidence Based Practice plays a crucial role in nursing, as it enables nurses to provide patient care that is informed by the best available evidence. Some common applications in nursing include developing clinical practice guidelines, translating evidence into practice, and engaging in quality improvement activities.

Developing Clinical Practice Guidelines

Evidence-Based Practice is a fundamental framework for the creation of clinical practice guidelines (CPGs). CPGs are systematically developed recommendations that aim to optimize patient care, based on a thorough evaluation of evidence. These guidelines help nurses make well-informed decisions in various clinical scenarios by providing practical, patient-centered care recommendations.

For example, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) has developed evidence-based guidelines for the management of diabetes, which cover a wide range of topics, such as screening, pharmacological therapy, and nutritional management. Nurses can apply these guidelines to improve patient care and outcomes for those with diabetes.

Translating Evidence into Practice

Translating evidence into practice refers to the process of implementing evidence based findings and recommendations into real-world practice settings. This application seeks to bridge the research-implementation gap and ensure patients receive care guided by the strongest available evidence.

For example, suppose a new meta-analysis reveals that nurse-led transitional care interventions can significantly reduce hospital readmissions for elderly patients with heart failure. In that case, nursing teams can work to implement such interventions within their clinical settings, potentially leading to improved patient outcomes.

Engaging in Quality Improvement Activities

Nurses can also utilize an evidence based approach to drive quality improvement initiatives within their organizations. This involves critically evaluating current practices, identifying areas for improvement, and actively pursuing changes in line with the best available evidence.

For instance, a nursing team may identify an increase in hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) on their unit. They can then use EBP to search for effective strategies to prevent these infections and implement those in their workflow. As a result, patient care will improve by decreasing the incidences of HAIs.

Impact of Evidence Based-Practice on Patient Outcomes

Evidence based practice (EBP) has significantly impacted the healthcare industry, and it has contributed to improving patient outcomes. Patients who receive care based on evidence based practices have a higher chance of achieving better health outcomes, including better clinical outcomes, fewer complications, and faster recovery times. The impact can be felt in a few particular ways:

Improved Patient Safety

Evidence based practice is crucial in promoting patient safety. By utilizing the best available evidence, healthcare professionals can identify and implement interventions that have been proven to reduce the risk of harm to patients. For example, evidence based guidelines on the prevention of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) can lead to a decrease in the incidence of these infections and promote a safer environment for both patients and staff.

Moreover, EBP can help identify practices that are either outdated or potentially harmful. For instance, EBP has led to the discontinuation of certain procedures that have been found to increase the risk of complications, such as routine episiotomies during childbirth. By eliminating such practices and replacing them with safer, evidence based alternatives, EBP contributes to improved patient safety and well-being.

Enhanced Quality of Care

EBP is fundamental in improving the overall quality of care received by patients. By incorporating the latest and most relevant evidence into their practice, healthcare professionals can ensure that they are providing the most effective treatments, interventions, and strategies. This helps to minimize the chances of treatment failure, reduce adverse effects, and maximize positive patient outcomes.

Reduction in Healthcare Costs

EBP not only improves patient outcomes but also reduces healthcare costs. By identifying the most cost-effective interventions and strategies, healthcare organizations can optimize their resources and minimize unnecessary expenditures. For example, EBP can guide healthcare professionals in choosing the most appropriate diagnostic tests, reducing the financial burden associated with over-testing and false-positive results.

Furthermore, EBP can help reduce the costs associated with healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). By implementing evidence based interventions that prevent the spread of HAIs, healthcare organizations can save money on treatment and lost productivity, while also improving patient safety and satisfaction.

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in nursing, see what Xavier University can do for you. At Xavier, we’re driven by a dedication to the common good and the education of the whole person. As a Jesuit Catholic university, we prepare students for a meaningful life of work, service, and personal fulfillment with a rigorous education rooted in the liberal arts tradition. Request information about our nursing program to learn more about the curriculum, coursework, and your future at Xavier University.


What is evidence-based practice in nursing?

Evidence based practice in nursing is a systematic approach to patient care that is rooted in the latest research and clinical expertise. It involves using the best available evidence, including research, expert opinions, and patient preferences, to inform clinical decision-making and improve patient care.

Why is evidence-based practice important in nursing?

Evidence-based practice is crucial in nursing for several reasons:

  • Improved patient outcomes: EBP leads to better patient outcomes by incorporating the most effective treatment options.
  • Standardization of care: EBP helps to create standardized guidelines that can reduce variability in the quality of care provided.
  • Continual advancement: EBP promotes a culture of learning and continuous improvement by encouraging nurses to stay up to date with the latest research and actively engage in research themselves.
  • Cost-effectiveness: By using proven, evidence based interventions, EBP can help to reduce healthcare costs by minimizing unnecessary interventions and improving overall patient care.

Ultimately, evidence based practice in nursing serves to improve the quality, safety, and effectiveness of patient care.

How does EBP impact patient outcomes?

EBP directly impacts patient outcomes by ensuring that the care provided is based on the best available evidence, resulting in more effective and safer interventions. This can lead to:

  • Reduced lengths of hospital stay
  • Fewer complications
  • Improved recovery rates and patient satisfaction
  • Lower healthcare costs associated with better outcomes

Incorporating EBP in nursing practice leads to a higher quality of care, which in turn positively affects patient outcomes.

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