Evidence for Practice – knowing WHAT to do, HOW and WHY to do it - Rita Newland

ritanewland_hOver 40 years ago the use of evidence to guide nursing and midwifery practice was no more than an aspiration proposed by those who sought to reduce the gap between theory and practice. Fast forward 40 years and we now have easy access to so much information at the click of a switch that we can’t possibly say we do not knowing what’s going on.

For me now the important thing is knowing the type of information we need. The challenge is no longer finding information but finding the right information to improve our understanding. Indeed now we must make the distinction between the information that we use as a consumer and that which informs our practice when planning, delivering and evaluating care. If we are to be evidence based practitioners we must search for evidence generated from research, the informed opinion of experts and best practice commentary. This is essential if we are to understand the wider context of health; public health and health care and positively influence the public’s health.

Fortunately this is not difficult for nurses and midwives in the UK to achieve. In fact I would say that over time it has become easier. When I think back to my undergraduate days as a University student and the hours I spent searching the library shelves for heavy bound books of journals and once I’d located the article of choice I’d stand at the photocopier for an equally long time copying so I could read the information and ensure it was still available to others who needed it. This exercise was so labour intensive and meant that I had to get to the library early to avoid disappointment of not being able to find what I needed.

However, many university libraries no longer have large basement rooms filled with paper journals. The Internet is now available to all university students; we can access journals via the Internet from the comfort of our own homes and no longer need worry about others who may need it because we can all use it at the same time if necessary.

So armed with this information we must be ready, willing and able to challenge the action of colleagues and clients so that the right information is available to all who need it. It is no longer appropriate or acceptable to follow the leader, do as we are told or to base our practice on our personal opinion and wishes.

The advent of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, NICE now makes this so much more achievable than ever before. We are indeed privileged to have a service that provides fast access to reliable evidence and best practice for health, public health and social care at our finger tips. The hard work has already been done so we don’t have to repeat it. The one thing we must do however; is use it in order to maximise the health and well-being of our clients and the general public.

In NICE we have a universally recognised product so we don’t have to spend time checking if we are in the right place. The information is presented in a consistent way, what you see is what you get, so we don’t have to waste time searching for what’s important. Other plus factors for me include the fact that:

- It is accessible to different audiences so if like me you prefer a paper copy, you can have it. Alternatively the digitally minded among us can use the web based portal.
- It gives me information about how I should act as well as why and it informs me about the impact that my action is likely to have.

So if you are not familiar with the NICE website why not have a look There’s likely to be something that interests you and I hope encourages you to read on.
NICE guidance is a must read for all Registered Nurses and Midwives, who profess to be safe, effective and evidence based practitioners. So start reading today, don’t stop and in no time at all you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it……

Rita Newland is a nurse advisor at Public Health England

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