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Simpson Library | Special Collections

Nursing: Evidence Based Nursing

What is Evidence Based Nursing (EBN)?

Definitions of evidence based nursing have varied in scholarly literature.  Scott & McSherry's extensive literature review looked at commonalities between EBN definitions and synthesized them to come up with the following definition: 

"An ongoing process by which evidence, nursing theory and the practitioners’ clinical expertise are critically evaluated and considered, in conjunction with patient involvement, to provide delivery of optimum nursing care for the individual."

Scott, K. & McSherry, R. "Evidence Based Nursing: clarifying the concepts for nurses in practice." Journal of Clinical Nursing 2009; 18(8): 1085-95

Why Evidence Based Nursing (EBN)?

Evidence-based nursing is one approach that may enable nurses to manage the explosion of new literature and technology and ultimately may result in improved patient outcomes.

Nursing students spend a great deal of preclinical preparation time designing care plans, reviewing pathophysiology, and memorizing pharmacologic interactions. Although these activities are useful, they cannot be the only methods of preparing students for nursing practice.

Sole reliance on textbooks and expert faculty knowledge does not promote the critical thinking skills that nurses must have to survive in the current fast paced clinical settings. Students must learn to develop independent, evidence-based methods of clinical decision making. Both medical and nursing professionals have explored this change in healthcare practice, research and knowledge development, a paradigm shift called "evidence based practice".

Evidence based practice (EBP) "involves an ability to access, summarize, and apply information from the literature to day-to-day clinical problems". Evidence based practice "requires an emphasis on systematic observation and experience and a reliance on the research literature to substantiate nursing decisions." Evidence based practice allows practitioners to meet a daily need for valid information about clinical situations.

Evidence based practice allows nurses to enrich their clinical training and experience with up to date research. With the large amount of research and information that exists in nursing, learning the skills of evidence based practice allows nurses to search for, assess, and apply the literature to their clinical situations.

Quotations from: Kessenich CR, "Teaching nursing students evidence-based nursing." Nurse Educator, Nov/Dec 1997, 22(6): 25-29.

How is EBN different from Evidence Based Medicine?

Evidence based medicine is defined as "the conscientious, explicit, and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients. The practice of evidence based medicine means integrating individual clinical expertise with the best available external clinical evidence from systematic research."

Quotation from: Sackett, David L, et al. "Evidence Based Medicine: What It Is and What It Isn't." BMJ 1996; 312: 71-72.

Both EBM and EBN fall under the umbrella of evidence based practice.  However, nurses' approach to evidence based practice may differ from the standard biomedical model. Typically, nurses are committed to providing holistic care; treating and working with patients rather than working on them. Effectiveness of treatment is only one part of the clinical decision-making process: in deciding on therapeutic interventions, acceptability to the patient and cost-effectiveness are considered.

McSherry, Robert, (ed.) Evidence-informed nursing : a guide for clinical nurses. London ; New York : Routledge, 2002. pg.7


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Paul Boger




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