Getting evidence into practice: the meaning of 'context'

J Adv Nurs. 2002 Apr;38(1):94-104. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2648.2002.02150.x.


Aim of paper: This paper presents the findings of a concept analysis of 'context' in relation to the successful implementation of evidence into practice.

Background: In 1998, a conceptual framework was developed that represented the interplay and interdependence of the many factors influencing the uptake of evidence into practice [Kitson A., Harvey G. & McCormack B. (1998) Quality in Health Care 7, 149]. One of the key elements of the framework was 'context', that is, the setting in which evidence is implemented. It was proposed that key factors in the context of health care practice had a significant impact on the implementation and uptake of evidence. As part of the on-going development and refinement of the framework, the elements within it have undergone a concept analysis in order to provide some theoretical and conceptual rigour to its content.

Methods: Morse's [Morse J.M. (1995) Advances in Nursing Science 17, 31; Morse J.M., Hupcey J.E. & Mitcham C. (1996) Scholarly Inquiry for Nursing Practice. An International Journal 10, 253] approach to concept analysis was used as a framework to review semi-nal texts critically and the supporting research literature in order to establish the conceptual clarity and maturity of 'context' in relation to its importance in the implementation of evidence-based practice.

Findings: Characteristics of the concept of context in terms of organizational culture, leadership and measurement are outlined. A main finding is that context specifically means 'the setting in which practice takes place', but that the term itself does little to reflect the complexity of the concept. Whilst the themes of culture and leadership are central characteristics of the concept, the theme of 'measurement' is better articulated through the broader term of 'evaluation'.

Conclusions: There is inconsistency in the use of the term and this has an impact on claims of its importance. The concept of context lacks clarity because of the many issues that impact on the way it is characterized. Additionally, there is limited understanding of the consequences of working with different contexts. Thus, the implications of using context as a variable in research studies exploring research implementation are as yet largely unknown. The concept of context is partially developed but in need of further delineation and comparison.

MeSH terms

  • Culture
  • Evidence-Based Medicine / standards*
  • Humans
  • Leadership
  • Politics
  • Professional Practice / standards*
  • Psychology
  • Socioeconomic Factors