This month's "Clinical Outlook" discusses how to review research articles before deciding to change practice. This may seem farfetched as a clinical article until the changing nature of clinical nursing is considered.
In the past, care decisions were based on traditions. One has only to read Nightingale's Notes on Nursing (1860) to understand how little many traditions have changed. We do things in a certain way because "that is how we've always done it." Some of us were taught the proper "principles" for certain procedures that had to be maintained. This often produced care that was well-intended but ritualistic.
Now we are in an age of increased accountability. We must predict the desired outcomes of care and be able to measure them objectively. As nursing research becomes more available, we are able to use studies as a basis for practice policies and quality measures. The use of nursing research utilization teams is becoming common in many hospitals and other settings.
The increased availability of gerontological nursing research is reflected in the Journal of Gerontological Nursing. The Journal regularly publishes studies of older adults relevant to gerontological nursing practice. Nurses must then determine whether or not the study is appropriate to their clinical settings. The editors assume readers have sufficient background and skill to critically evaluate articles or have access to resource people who can help them.
However, many - if not the majority - of gerontological nurses have never been introduced to methods for evaluating research. Moreover, those practicing in small facilities or rural areas may lack access to adequately trained resource people to help them interpret studies. This month's "Clinical Outlook" was written to assist the staff or administrative gerontological nurse who has never had a research course to read studies critically and to think about using nursing research as a basis for practice.
It is important to dispel the myth that understanding research is the domain of professionals with advanced degrees - especially those who are far removed from patients. Reading and critically evaluating research is a learned skill; with appropriate training and support, it can be an enjoyable part of clinical practice and a method of nurturing professional growth on any nursing staff. Research utilization is important to provide comprehensive patient care that reflects current standards.
- Nightingale, F. Notes on nursing: What it is and what it is not. New York: D. Appleton & Co, 1860.