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Using evidence

Understand your staff’s strengths and weakness in using research evidence, says Nicola Wright.

The use of evidence to inform care is not new in nursing. Florence Nightingale is credited as a pioneer of this approach in relation to wound healing and other areas.

In their everyday work, nurses gather many different types of evidence, for example patient observations, recommendations from manufacturers and media reports.

Since the 1980s, evidence within the context of “evidence-based practice” has referred to the use of research, clinical expertise and patient values to provide the best-quality care. The Nursing and Midwifery Council code of conduct makes clear the personal responsibility to deliver care and advice based on the best evidence available.

As a clinical leader or manager in a busy hospital or community setting, how do you facilitate your team to use the “best” evidence in everyday practice?

As with other aspects of team leadership, having a good knowledge of your staff cannot be overestimated. Understanding their strengths and experience of using research evidence is a good starting point for the development of evidence-based practice.

Practical ideas

  • Work with colleagues to identify questions in your clinical area that are in need of evidence to inform practice. What about links with the wider multidisciplinary team – are any allied health professionals or doctors attached to the clinical area that is searching and reviewing the evidence? Can their work be used for multiple purposes?
  • Do you want to implement a change – is there any evidence to support it? Have you been undertaking certain activities and wondering why? The process of finding and using evidence will be easier if it is in an area in which you are interested and is relevant to your work environment.
  • Which skills already exist in your team in relation to finding, appraising and using research? Can you establish a mentoring system so staff members can share skills, with those with more experience developing the skills of those who are less familiar with using research? Do members of your team have specific clinical interests and could they lead a small-scale project, looking at a particular area?
  • Any gaps in knowledge can be addressed. Can you support staff to select development opportunities that will help them to gain the skills they need to implement evidence-based practice? This could be part of their continuing professional development.
  • Does your organisation have a research department? Is there any assistance you can access to help with finding information such as research literature?
  • What projects are student nurses connected to your clinical area undertaking? Could they work with you to write about something that is relevant to your needs and which would be mutually beneficial?

Dr Nicola Wright is a research fellow at Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire.

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