Evidence-Based Practice and Nursing Research: Avoiding Confusion

Best practices in nursing are always evolving.
"It's amazing how things change," says Flaugher. "I remember being taught things in nursing school, and once I got out into practice, I saw how things are done differently."

The example Flaugher likes to use is treatment for acute muscle strain.

In school—"many moons ago," she jokes—nurses were taught to use ice for the first 24 hours and then heat to increase blood flow to the muscle after that point.

"Now we look at the evidence … we didn't really question our faculty," says Flaugher. "Now if you look at the evidence, research says that we just use heat. We've validated our outcomes."

The language of research
Why do we struggle to understand the difference between evidence-based practice and nursing research? It is often a matter of education and experience—and learning a foreign language.

"A lot of nurses know research but haven't done research," says Flaugher. "If you don't understand the concepts and rules of research, there's potential for confusion."

Not all staff members have the background to immediately differentiate between the two. It's a matter of education.

"If you don't understand research, then levels of study won't make sense. … If you don't have the foundation on research, it's hard to use it in evidence-based practice," says Flaugher.

Research is generating new knowledge about a phenomenon or validating existing knowledge, she explains. Although evidence-based practice may have opinion—expert opinion, but opinion still—woven in, research is built in such a way to avoid bias.

"Research is pretty cut-and-dry," says Flaugher. "You take so many safeguards against bias."

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