Evidence-Based Practice for the Novice Nurse

As a nursing student or recent graduate, you are more than likely familiar with the term evidence-based practice (EBP). I don’t know how you feel about it, but when I was a novice nurse, research and EBP were things I knew about but I can’t say they were a priority for me.  It often felt like something that nursing management had to deal with. I was way more occupied by making sure my patients were properly assessed and that medications were passed in a timely fashion.  I felt like every shift I was barely able to keep up. How was I supposed to worry about EBP? Well, it might not seem like a priority, but EBP is a critical part of the nursing profession. Here are some practical tips for making EBP part of what you do, even as a novice nurse.

Look at the Situations Around You

Being a new nurse has some perks. For one, you bring a fresh set of eyes to your practice area. Other nurses are going to expect you ask questions. A very important part of evidence-based practice is asking a question. Look at the situation around you and get curious. What are problems you see in the area where you work? What concerns or excites you about the clinical area where you are caring for patients? It doesn’t have to be some grand, organizational question. It might affect only one patient and that’s ok. Just get comfortable looking at the situations around you because this is where questions come from.

Read and Critique Research

Yes, I’m serious. Look, I know kicking back with a nursing research article might not be the best way to spend a Saturday night. However, to use research, you have to understand research.  No doubt you have read a few research articles for school. The evidence for EBP comes from nursing research. Nurses can find existing research that helps to answer questions they have about nursing practice. In order to find the best evidence to improve nursing, nurses need to be reading research.  As a novice, focus on reading research and becoming familiar with the layout of research articles. Get used to the flow and terminology so you can develop an understanding of what makes research evidence strong, trustworthy, and credible. This isn’t easy and it will take time. You can use your time as a novice nurse to grow into this skill just like all the other skills you are hoping to master. Subscribe to nursing journals or search for research from the local library. Just keep reading and your confidence will grow.

Share Research

Think of this like book club.  Read something interesting? Share it with your colleagues. As a new nurse, you can bring a whole new perspective to your clinical area.  Nurses that have been there longer might not be as up-to-date on the latest and greatest when it comes to research. As you read relevant research, share it with colleagues and brainstorm how this research may impact nursing practice or a particular nursing question you have about your practice area. This can stimulate your colleagues to share with you about interesting research they have read, leading to a great collaboration regarding research in practice. It can help to get you comfortable talking about research solutions in an informal way. The more comfortable you are, the more likely you will want to continue to develop the use of EBP in clinical environments.

Get Involved

This one can be tricky, especially for the novice nurse. If you’ve been looking at the situations around you, reading research, and sharing research, the next natural step is going to be to get involved with applying it.  You will have developed quite a knowledge base if you’ve been reading research. As a new nurse, you might not be comfortable striking out on your own to implement EBP but you can get involved with the committees and groups at your practice location that handle EBP projects for the organization. Speak up about what you’ve seen in practice and how you think research evidence can improve nursing practice. If you have already been sharing research informally with colleagues, this is a great way to apply that skill by sharing it with change leaders in your facility. Getting involved can be as simple as attending a meeting or volunteering to work on a small EBP project. Getting involved will give you the chance to share and grow your EBP ideas.

Implement EBP

All EBP does not have to take place at the organizational level.  You can implement your own EBP care decisions with your patients. Research has supported the idea that a particular nursing intervention improves patient outcomes? Why not assess your patient to see if that new intervention can be used to improve his care plan? Small steps can increase your comfort in making EBP care decisions and build a good foundation of EBP for your career.

I know it might seem like EBP isn’t a priority. You have a lot of things on your plate. As a newly graduated nurse, you have to study for and pass NCLEX-RN. Then, as a novice nurse in practice, you will have so many questions about the day to day that it might not seem like there is even room to consider EBP. Using these practical tips to make EBP part of your early practice will help you get comfortable with the process faster and develop EBP as part of your career from the very beginning.