Evidence-based practice (EBP) is an approach to healthcare that utilizes the most current research available in order to improve the health and safety of patients while reducing overall costs and variation in health outcomes, according to the Journal of Nursing Administration. It is applied problem-solving, combining best practices from the latest medical literature with clinical experience and the values and preferences of the patients under treatment.

Although EBP has only recently found widespread integration in modern nursing practice, starting in the 1990s, its roots run deep in nursing history. While most of the literature credits physician Archie Cochrane in the 1970s as the originator of EBP, then called evidence-based medicine, some nurse researchers trace it back to Florence Nightingale. In the 1800s, her effort to improve patient outcomes in the face of unsanitary conditions by employing accurate observation and analysis is often considered the first example of EBP.

While supervising the barrack hospital in Scutari, Turkey, during the Crimean war, Nightingale applied critical thinking skills, evidence and experimentation to improve patient health. She also used statistics to better anticipate morbidity and mortality in her patients. Although she lacked the wealth of research we have today, she was nevertheless a trailblazer for EBP in nursing.

The common heritage that all nurses share, dating back to Nightingale, is a natural fit for EBP. Nurses considering an online RN to BSN should ensure the program they choose includes EBP as an essential part of the curriculum.

Why Is EBP important?

Researchers at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) developed three principles to improve both individual healthcare and the health of populations, while also reducing the overall cost of care. The “Triple Aim,” as it is called, became a priority for the United States with the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010. The Triple Aim is defined as “improving the individual experience of care; improving the health of populations; and reducing the per capita costs of care for populations.” A fourth aim, to reduce burnout and improve the clinical experiences of nurses, has since been added.

Research consistently demonstrates that EBP improves the delivery of healthcare, strengthens outcomes, diminishes geographical differences in care and cuts costs. Employing EBP has been found to increase overall job satisfaction, which in turn reduces burnout.

In spite of its efficacy in meeting the Triple and Quadruple Aims, EBP is only gradually becoming the standard of carehe United States. Given its proven ability to greatly improve the quality of care while simultaneously reducing costs, it is critical to advance the adoption of EBP. Armed with the necessary knowledge and skills, nurses can be an integral part of EBP implementation as members of interdisciplinary teams and healthcare systems.


What Does EBP Mean for Nurses?

As an empowering approach to care, EBP gives nurses the tools they need to become change agents for improved healthcare outcomes. Embodying an ethic of problem-solving and inquiry, it begins with observation and the formulation of a question, continues through studious pursuit of an answer through research and integration into care and ideally results in improved conditions and outcomes, both locally and globally, as the findings are shared.

Nurses employing EBP become the nexus between a wealth of medical research and practical experience on the ground. They are able to standardize care, decrease medical errors, and bring positive change to their patients, their communities and the world.

Ultimately, EBP gives nurses the opportunity to take a more active role in shaping the practice of nursing in concert with other healthcare professionals and clinicians. It means living up to the example that Nightingale set and creating a better healthcare system from the inside.

Many non-EBP practices continue in spite of the lack of solid research to back them up. Based on tradition rather than evidence, many such interventions and protocols are counter-productive at best, and actively harmful at worst. EBP offers a path away from increased costs, subpar care and unsatisfactory results. Ensuring nurses have the confidence and competence to evaluate medical literature as well as the judgment necessary to compose and carry out a trial is an essential aspect of the RN to BSN online program at the University of Maine Fort Kent (UMFK).

Healthcare is changing, and those who are able to navigate the demands of EBP will be positioned to facilitate that change in their own practice. Armed with your BSN, you are taking the first step to worldwide improvements in healthcare through evidence-based practices.

Learn more about the UMFK online RN to BSN program.


Journal of Nursing Administration: Promoting Evidence-Based Practice Through a Research Training Program for Point-of-Care Clinicians

Journal of Professional Nursing: The History of Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing Education and Practice

Milbank Quarterly: Pursuing the Triple Aim: The First 7 Years

Reflections on Nursing Leadership: Improving Healthcare Quality, Patient Outcomes, and Costs with Evidence-Based Practice

Health Care for Women International: Evidence-Based Practice in the United States: Challenges, Progress, and Future Directions

Pediatrics and Neonatal Nursing: Evidence-Based Practice: Are We Getting There?

International Journal of Childbirth Education: Origins of Evidence-Based Practice and What It Means for Nurses