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Throughout the years, nursing has evolved — both in the way nurses provide patient care and the way they are educated. Over the past few decades though, evidence-based practice has emerged as the gold standard of care and greatly influenced Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) coursework.

What Is Evidence-Based Practice?

Evidence-based practice (EBP) is a patient-centered approach founded on independent scientific research, clinical expertise, standardized practice and patient experiences. Nurses and other healthcare providers who utilize this approach must consider the most recent healthcare research when determining the course of care and treatment.

The field of nursing earned recognition as an applied science in the 1960s, and research efforts intensified. The accumulation of research may have led to increasing knowledge levels; however, healthcare leaders began to express concern at the widening gap between the ideal healthcare environment and what patients were actually experiencing, despite healthcare reform and a rise in access. Moreover, they were worried that the growing amount of scientific background and research was not being transferred and applied consistently to clinical patient care, thereby failing to meet the goal of improved and consistent outcomes.

In response, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), formerly the Institute of Medicine (IOM), issued Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century. This report noted prior research that indicated the current system was causing preventable harm. It also reiterated the need for uniformity across the healthcare system to ensure that all patients were receiving the highest quality of care no matter where they sought treatment. To reach that goal, it was theorized that incremental changes would not be enough — a complete overhaul would be necessary. One of the recommendations was to implement EBP.

How Is Evidence-Based Practice Used in Nursing?

The transition to EBP has impacted nursing in several ways. First, nursing education has changed. Colleges and universities have altered their BSN program curricula to incorporate EBP. Students pursuing the degree, even through accelerated online RN to BSN programs, will find coursework that focuses not only on increasing a nurse’s overall knowledge base, but also on the importance of professional accountability. These programs emphasize critical thinking skills and encourage students to consider the patient’s clinical, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds, as well as relevant scientific research.

The growing use of EBP has also led to a greater interest in and emphasis on nursing research. While bachelor’s programs may contain at least one course related to nursing research, students may find it beneficial to further hone their skills. Although research may not frequently be a task assigned to entry-level nurses, it can be helpful to know about new and emerging scientific data since it can have a more direct influence on current and future professional nursing practices than in the past.

Becoming familiar with various research methodologies may prepare nurses for careers away from the bedside. With the accumulation of clinical experience and the completion of a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, nurses will find many more opportunities in research. These roles are often more independent and require less patient contact. Nurse researchers may design studies or trials, collect and review data, and write and publish their findings.

What Are the Benefits of Evidence-Based Practice?

The ultimate goal of the EBP movement is to standardize and improve access and quality of care across the healthcare system. Certain patient and nurse benefits include the following:

Improved patient outcomes. The heavy focus on raising the overall quality of care may lead to improved outcomes and health for patients. Using the most current healthcare research can help minimize complications associated with chronic illness and prevent additional illness or disease.

Lower costs of care. Roughly one in four Americans are living with multiple chronic illnesses and the cost of caring for these patients can often be substantial. Using EBP’s patient-centered approach may help eliminate unnecessary costs linked to treating chronically ill patients as well as reduce expenses for healthier patients, too.

Superior nursing skills. Incorporating EBP throughout a nurse’s education and clinical experiences develops more advanced critical thinking and decision-making skills. Nurses are better able to adapt to situations, utilize informatics and work in interdisciplinary teams. They also feel a greater sense of confidence and pride in their work.

Advancing Patient Care

Evidence-based practice has become an integral component of delivering high-quality, patient-centered care. Nursing students in an RN to BSN program will learn EBP theories and apply this knowledge in their careers. Offering benefits to both patients and nurses, evidence-based practice is helping to lead the way in advancing patient care.

Learn more about Mississippi College’s online RN to BSN program.

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