Evidence-based practice (EBP) is defined by Duke University Medical Center as "the integration of clinical expertise, patient values and the best research evidence into the decision-making process for patient care."
EBP strategies allow nurse practitioners (NPs) and other health care providers to translate research findings into clinical practice. With efficient literature-searching skills and the application of formal rules of evidence in evaluating research findings, providers can apply existing scientific knowledge in their clinical practice for each individual patient.
“The Institute for Healthcare Improvement said we should target the triple aim in health care: improving the patient experience, improving population health outcomes and decreasing health care costs,” says Dr. Melnyk. “Some years after the triple aim goal came out, a fourth aim was added: improving the work life of clinicians and their well-being. EBP is the secret sauce to enable us to get to that quadruple aim.”
In a time when NPs and many other providers experience symptoms of burn out, EBP can be empowering. While it may require a different skillset, research has shown that when providers deliver evidence-based care, patient outcomes are markedly improved. For example, in a 2020 Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (JAANP) article, a free clinic launched a quality improvement project to increase influenza vaccination rates and found that evidence-based interventions led to a 597% increase.
Unfortunately, even when health care providers hold positive opinions about EBP, many do not actively implement EBP strategies due to a lack of time, lack of leadership buy-in and investment or lack of understanding.
“We conducted a study of 276 chief nurse executives from across the U.S. and found that, although they believe in value of EBP, they didn’t invest in it for their clinicians. Although they identified quality and safety as key priorities, EBP was at the bottom,” says Dr. Melnyk.
“This tells us they don’t understand EBP is the direct pathway to getting to health care quality and safety. EBP is all about using the best evidence to make the best clinical decisions to achieve the best clinical outcomes.”