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Why evidence-based practice is crucial to healthcare

Healthcare Job

During the recent Covid-19 pandemic, professionals and laypeople alike seemed to be constantly engaged in heated debates about the best way to make health decisions in relation to both prevention and treatment. The answer, as always, remains simple: take a detailed note of all the available evidence and try to make choices that will help produce the best overall outcome for the individual’s health. The process for making these decisions, however, is much more complicated.

In this article, we look at the importance of evidence-based practice (EBP) in healthcare and how it can form a basis for sound decision-making. In addition, we examine how health professionals can learn more about the approach and the career path that can help support an evidence-based outlook. 

Combining research and expertise 

Evidence-based practice, or EPB, is taken from the idea of applying the latest medical research in combination with the expert knowledge of the health provider and the expectations of the patient. In addition to improving patient outcomes through research-proven techniques, EBP also helps advance healthcare knowledge through its combination of the very best research and clinical experience, places a greater priority on the needs of patients, and can save time and resources through the exclusive use of proven strategies and treatments.

If, for example, somebody is diagnosed with hypertension, the treating physician will consider key information about the patient in question – such as physical condition, age, weight, height, family history, and lifestyle – and make a detailed assessment with the help of the extensive data available to find the best treatment path available for the individual concerned. Nurses can also play an important role in this process by asking the patient clear questions , conducting research into the matter through relevant peer-reviewed articles, and discussing possible treatment options with the patient and the treating physician.

The cycle of improvement

With this method, instead of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ policy based on medical dogma, health professionals take a rigorous but open approach to determining the very best course of treatment. In practical terms, EBP works as a cycle, where evidence is collected and translated into best medical practice, applied on a daily basis in healthcare treatment, but continually reassessed and re-tested. Behind this is the assumption that our knowledge can always be improved and that patients deserve cutting-edge medicine.

Today, it is arguably a basic expectation for doctors and nurses to be well-versed in the ideas of evidence-based practice. And while medical school provides a rigorous challenge for prospective doctors, naturally it is just as important for nurses to undergo a thorough grounding in the theories and research underpinning modern medicine.

Educational grounding

The first step for prospective nurses is to complete a BA in nursing, though there are other options for the many people who have already completed a bachelor’s degree in another field. With a hybrid ABSN (Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing), for example, it is possible to qualify as a nurse in a shorter time and begin practicing within two years. For instance, the Hybrid Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) from Saint Joseph’s College of Maine (SJC) enables prospective nurses to complete the qualification within 15 months, with 100% of coursework carried out online.

With this kind of degree, students will have the opportunity to learn not only the fundamental theories of evidence-based practice but also the core competencies of patient-centered care, topics related to health assessment of individual patients, and pediatrics. In addition, students undergo field placements to gain practical experience and also enjoy a full range of student support services to guide them through the process. Furthermore, the online nature of the course means that there is no need to relocate from their current residence to complete their degree.

Experience and lifelong learning crucial to EBP

Naturally, in addition to evidence from studies and research, most health professionals will also use their own experiences to help underpin their medical work. This is why most nurses or doctors will rely more heavily on the knowledge of their colleagues at the beginning of their careers, before developing their own convictions about the best way to provide treatment.

As we have mentioned above, with an evidence-based approach, it is also essential for health professionals to remain up to date at all times – this is why lifelong learning is a vital part of the medical profession. In addition to peer-to-peer support and mentoring sessions, health professionals are well-advised to continue their education through further training and reading whenever possible. There is also a large number of associations, publications, and conferences available in every branch of medicine that can help with this goal.

Applying knowledge and looking for what we do not know

For nurses, in particular, evidence-based practice is about taking the time and effort to examine the latest research and take a proactive approach to their work. At the same time, it should always be kept in mind that healthcare is a collaborative field. Healthcare professionals must always look to work closely together and with the patient to find the best way forward – only then will the chosen treatment path have the best possible chance of success.

Final thoughts

Overall, there is no question that an evidence-based approach to medicine is crucial today. Collectively, we have developed a huge amount of knowledge and experience about how best to help provide healthcare that can greatly improve patient outcomes. But we also need to bear in mind that our knowledge of the human mind and body remains limited – there is still so much we don’t yet know. As a result, health professionals must continue to remain curious and open to new ideas throughout their careers.

Felicia Wilson


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