"Those who can, do; those who cannot, teach." This popular phrase is a common, and arguably unfair, characterization of the difference between research and practice. Evidence-based practice attempts to bridge the gap between research and practice by integrating or balancing the expertise of practitioners with scientific evidence. Students in some medical education programs, particularly nursing, are required to conduct evidence-based practice projects to complete their training.

Evidence-Based Practice

Evidence-based practice applies a critical attitude toward the translation of scientific information into the clinical practice of medical professionals including doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and occupational therapists. This approach to medical care involves making health care decisions based on the integration of the best available scientific evidence, practitioner experience and patient input.

Evidence-Based Practice Steps

Engaging in evidence-based practice involves five steps. The first step is to ask questions about individual health problems or about health problems affecting groups of people. An example is to question what type of interventions are effective in addressing substance abuse. The second step is to review the best available evidence to answer the question. In the example of substance abuse, the best available evidence are the interdisciplinary studies on interventions used for individuals with substance abuse problems. The third step is to critically assess the evidence to determine its validity and applicability to the question. Again in the substance abuse example, studies not focused on the effectiveness of interventions are eliminated. The fourth step is to apply the knowledge to develop, collaboratively, a practical idea to address the problem. The fifth step is to implement the idea and to assess the outcome.

Evidence-Based Practice Projects Format

Evidence-based practice projects involve problem identification, investigation and solution. Students collect both scientific and clinical practice data regarding the problem, then design an intervention to address the problem. Students predict and analyze the outcome of a proposed intervention, identifying any patterns and gaps. Students then evaluate the project as a whole to determine best practices.

Example of an Evidence-Based Practice Projects

One example of an evidence-based practice project comes from the El Camino Hospital in California. The problem identified in this project was a high level of medication errors in the postpartum unit. A review of the available evidence suggested that bedside charting decreased the number of medication errors. The solution proposed was to include an electronic device for bedside charting at the beds in the postpartum unit. The project concluded the device reduced the number of medication errors.