Insufficient evidence: the problems of evidence-based nursing

Nurse Educ Today. 1999 Aug;19(6):433-42. doi: 10.1054/nedt.1999.0346.


Evidence-based medicine was first proposed in the early 1990s as a means of integrating clinical expertise with the best evidence from research. It has recently gained a foothold in nursing, where despite calls for a broad and nursing-oriented definition of what should count as evidence, it appears to be propounding the randomized controlled trial (RCT) as the gold standard. This paper challenges the wisdom of basing nursing practice on the findings of large-scale statistical research studies, and offers a number of logical objections to the underpinning philosophy of evidence-based nursing and the randomized controlled trial. It concludes by arguing for a rethinking of what should count as evidence, and suggests a quasi-legal model based on reflection rather than research, in which evidence is employed to understand and justify practice after the event rather than being used deterministically to plan practice in advance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence
  • Decision Support Techniques
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Humans
  • Models, Nursing*
  • Nursing Process
  • Nursing Research / organization & administration*
  • Philosophy, Nursing*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Research Design