The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing

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Teaching Tips 

Strategies for Making Oral Presentations About Clinical Issues: Part I. At the Workplace

Janet M. Brown, PhD, RN; Nola A. Schmidt, PhD, RN, CNE


This column offers strategies that clinicians can use to make effective oral presentations at work. Part II, which will be published next month, will offer strategies for making oral presentations at professional conferences.


This column offers strategies that clinicians can use to make effective oral presentations at work. Part II, which will be published next month, will offer strategies for making oral presentations at professional conferences.

The authors disclose that they have no significant financial interests in any product or class of products discussed directly or indirectly in this activity, including research support.

Nurses are qualified not only to practice, but also to generate and share new knowledge. They have a responsibility to participate in professional activities that facilitate dissemination because this begins the process of obtaining new knowledge for the betterment of society (Cronenwett, 1995). Clinicians can disseminate information about the realities of their day-to-day practice by describing evidence-based practices (EBPs), clinical case studies, and quality management projects. Due to increased demands for efficient and effective health care, nurses are accountable for creating best practices by sharing knowledge they have gained during practice. An additional benefit of dissemination is that nurses grow professionally as they engage in the process, deepening their knowledge about areas of practice (Lightfoot, 2007) and strengthening their understanding of EBP.

In nursing, there are three major ways that new knowledge is disseminated: posters, papers, and presentations. These are often referred to as the 3 Ps of dissemination (Brown & Schmidt, 2009). This column provides strategies that clinicians can use to conduct effective oral presentations at work. There are numerous articles in the literature regarding the preparation of posters (Ellerbee, 2006; Keely, 2004) and papers (Morse, 2007; Quallich, 2007; Walker, 2003; Wollin & Fairweather, 2007); however, guidelines for developing oral presentations are limited.

There are many opportunities at work for nurses to deliver oral presentations. Presentations can be made during unit-based meetings, nursing grand rounds, brown bag lunches, continuing education offerings, and new employee orientations or as part of a large hospital symposium. Any of the three types of presentations can be made. Presenting at work is highly recommended for the novice presenter because these presentations are usually less formal, do not have a peer review selection process, and are very rewarding.

Strategies to Become Motivated

There are many reasons why nurses do not deliver oral presentations: fearing public speaking, perceiving a lack of time, assuming others would not be interested in the topic, and being unfamiliar with the process. Strategies are available to overcome these barriers.

Some individuals find speaking before people stressful. A good way to begin is to make presentations to audiences that are non-threatening. Groups could consist of friends, colleagues, mentors, nursing students, or new employees. Practicing in front of a mirror can increase confidence. Some nurses find that taking a seminar or course on public speaking reduces their anxieties. It might be comforting to know that it is not uncommon for experienced public speakers to be nervous before presenting. Public speaking becomes easier with each presentation.

Preparing and delivering effective presentations require an investment of time; however, some simple strategies can promote efficiency. Committing to a deadline by scheduling a unit-based presentation is an effective motivational strategy. Another strategy, collaborating with colleagues, distributes workload. Procrastination can be overcome by committing to scheduled times to prepare and selecting topics about which you are passionate. Dedicated working times provide the added advantage of dividing the tasks associated with preparation into manageable pieces. Preparing for presentations is an outstanding use of time when such activities contribute to promotions or advances along a clinical ladder.

Nurses may believe that they have nothing important to share. It is likely that they have attended a conference and concluded that they could have presented on the topic. Some nurses may believe that it takes a great degree of skill or advanced academic preparation to successfully present. To the contrary, many nurses with basic preparation have the most current perspectives regarding practice and are able to address real issues that nurses face everyday. Expect that other nurses will be interested in hearing how a clinical problem was solved or nursing practice was improved.

Nurses who are unfamiliar with the process of creating oral presentations may not consider themselves prepared for this opportunity. By increasing their understanding of the process and gaining experience, clinicians can share their knowledge through presentations. Finding an experienced presenter to mentor you through the process is an excellent strategy for learning. Resources such as this column can provide guidelines and ideas about how to proceed. A search of the literature will provide resources offering helpful tips that may alleviate frustrations and facilitate a successful outcome (Lannon, 2007).

Choosing a Type of Presentation

Oral presentations are an important scholarly venue for disseminating evidence (Brown & Schmidt, 2009). Presentations are basically manuscripts in oral form. They are written papers combined with public speaking before an audience (Ulrich, 2007). Although presentations have typically been a medium for disseminating research findings, they are being increasingly used to share knowledge about EBP, clinical case studies, and quality management projects.

With the emphasis on Magnet recognition and the demand for cost-effective quality care, EBP presentations are in tremendous demand. EBP combines research-based information, clinical expertise, and patient preferences to determine best practice (Ingersoll, 2000; Melnyk & Fineout-Overholt, 2005). For example, an EBP presentation may describe how nurses examined evidence to implement best practices for pain management during circumcision. This type of presentation begins by introducing the clinical question and briefly describing how a review of literature was conducted. Next, the method used to analyze evidence should be specified. A major portion of the presentation is directed toward summarizing a synthesis of the findings. Presenters indicate decisions made in light of findings. If practice changes have been made, it is appropriate to discuss implementation strategies and evaluative data. The presentation should conclude with a discussion about how the findings contribute to nursing care.

Clinical case studies provide knowledge about unique or atypical circumstances. They can also be used to showcase novel innovations that affect positive patient outcomes. For example, a nurse may report how astute nursing assessments identified a rare complication in a patient with an inferior vena cava filter. The presenter provides background information about the case, always being sure to protect patient confidentiality. The nursing process is used to structure the case study. The presentation concludes with a discussion about implications for nursing practice.

Presentations about quality management projects offer nurses in administration an opportunity to share unique knowledge they have acquired. For example, a nurse may discuss how a quality improvement team changed the process of labeling specimens to expedite the reporting of laboratory values. Presenters describe the clinical issue targeted by the quality management project and identify team members. The majority of the presentation addresses the process used to improve patient outcomes. The presenter concludes with a discussion about the outcomes and how the process could be improved.


In health care, every discipline faces the challenge of keeping providers of care up-to-date. All nurses have a responsibility to participate in the dissemination process. Oral presentations at the workplace are a cost-effective, manageable approach to disseminating clinical knowledge.

Janet M. Brown, PhD, RN
Nola A. Schmidt, PhD, RN, CNE
Valparaiso University
Valparaiso, Indiana


  • Brown, J. M. & Schmidt, N. A. (2009). Sharing the insights with others. In Schmidt, N. A. & Brown, J. M. (Eds.), Evidence-based practice for nurses: Appraisal and application of research (pp. 105–119). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.
  • Cronenwett, L. R. (1995). Effective methods for disseminating research findings to nurses in practice. Nursing Clinics of North America, 30, 429–438.
  • Ellerbee, S. M. (2006). Posters with an artistic flair. Nurse Educator, 31(4), 166–169. doi:10.1097/00006223-200607000-00010 [CrossRef]
  • Ingersoll, G. L. (2000). Evidence-based nursing: What it is and what it isn’t. Nursing Outlook, 48, 151–152. doi:10.1067/mno.2000.107690 [CrossRef]
  • Keely, B. R. (2004). Planning and creating effective scientific posters. The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 35, 182–185.
  • Lannon, S. L. (2007). Leadership skills beyond the bedside: Professional development classes for the staff nurse. The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 38(1), 17–21.
  • Lightfoot, S. (2007). Academic writing. Nursing Standard, 22(8), 59–60.
  • Melnyk, B. M. & Fineout-Overholt, E. (2005). Making the case for evidence-based practice. In Melnyk, B. M. & Fineout-Overholt, E. (Eds.), Evidence-based practice in nursing and healthcare: A guide to best practice (pp. 3–37). Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams, & Wilkins.
  • Morse, J. M. (2007). Reasons for rejection/reasons for acceptance. Qualitative Health Research, 17, 1163–1164. doi:10.1177/1049732307306923 [CrossRef]
  • Quallich, S. (2007). Fear factor: The write stuff. Urological Nursing, 27, 275–277.
  • Ulrich, B. T. (2007). Professional communications: Publications and presentations. Nephrology Nursing Journal, 34, 503–508.
  • Walker, C. A. (2003). A scholar is what a scholar writes: Practical tips on scholarly writing. The Journal of Theory Construction & Testing, 7(1), 6–8.
  • Wollin, J. A. & Fairweather, C. T. (2007). Finding your voice: Key elements to consider when writing for publication. British Journal of Nursing, 16, 1418–1421.

The authors disclose that they have no significant financial interests in any product or class of products discussed directly or indirectly in this activity, including research support.


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