According to a survey of US nurses, nurses overwhelmingly want an evidence-based practice (EBP), yet, few of us have reached this goal. So, what is holding us back? A lot, it turns out. Unfortunately, the application of research findings continues to be a challenge in every setting of nursing. The research-to-practice gap is reported as anywhere from one to three decades. Ten to 30 years is a long time to turn research findings into actual practice. Even when put into practice, research application can be sporadic and inconsistent.
Although barriers to research utilization have not yet been investigated in the correctional nursing specialty, findings in other settings suggest a multitude of reasons. Characteristics of individual nurses have been studied and attitude toward research has emerged as a primary personal characteristic leading to use of research findings. Nurses practicing in the correctional setting may have mixed attitudes toward the reading and application of research findings. Lack of skill in evaluating and applying research findings may negatively affect attitude toward research.
Other personal characteristics that may affect research use include advanced degrees, attending conferences, and job satisfaction. Therefore, as correctional nurses increase their knowledge of research principles through formal education and continuing education activities, they may increase research application in practice. This can mean improved clinical outcomes for our patients.
There may also be organizational and cultural barriers to EBP. Nurses working in correctional settings may have few knowledge resources such as access to medical libraries and online databases/articles, and may have few like-minded colleagues to engage in discussion and analysis of the evidence. There may be little leadership support or system strategy for research application. In addition, time needed to search for, analyze, and apply research may be limited.
With all that is to be overcome, it is no wonder correctional nursing practice has little evidence behind it. How can we change this? Here are five suggestions that may help increase the evidence base of nursing practice in jails and prisons:
- Subscribe to nursing news aggregators: These sources send the latest research to your email inbox, usually weekly. I use Medscape for Nurses often, especially when I am authoring a new Correctional Nurse Educator class. Nursing Insider News is also a good resource from the American Nurses Asociation. Once you complete a free registration you can indicate the newsletters you wish to receive.
- Refer to our Correctional Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice that includes as Standard 13, Evidence Based Practice and Research. It discusses the competencies for correctional nurses regarding research and the use of evidence-based knowledge in our practice.
- Become a member of the Academy of Correctional Health Professionals (ACHP) and receive the CorrectCare magazine. This publication often has evidence that can be applied in our setting.
- Check out the Cochrane Collaborative and Joanna Briggs Institute for best practice guidelines that can be used in policy, procedure, and standards development.
- Read articles or take a basic course on how to find and apply evidence in your nursing practice. Here is an article from Nursing Process.org that may get you started.
- Find others in your local correctional community to mentor you on EBP processes. Don’t overlook medical and mental health staff who often have similar concerns in their own disciplines. Collaborate to search out, evaluate, and apply research findings in your setting.
Have you implemented EBP at your facility? Tell us your story in the comments section of this post.