Evidence-based nursing: clarifying the concepts for nurses in practice

J Clin Nurs. 2009 Apr;18(8):1085-95. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2702.2008.02588.x. Epub 2008 Nov 24.


Aim: To provide a critical analysis of key concepts associated with evidence-based nursing (EBN) to substantiate an operational definition for nurses to use in practice.

Background: Despite the plethora of literature surrounding what evidence-based nursing is and is not and how it differs from its cousins, evidence-based medicine and evidence-based practice, nurses still struggle to get evidence into practice. Several reasons for this have been reported, for example, a lack of understanding about what evidence-based nursing means or time to engage with and apply the evidence into practice.

Design: An in-depth critical review and synthesis of literature was undertaken.

Method: Using the key words; evidence-based nursing, evidence-based medicine and evidence-based practice 496 articles were yielded. These articles were limited to 83. Using Burns and Grove's (2001) phased approach to reviewing the literature the articles were critically reviewed and categorised into key concepts and themes.

Results: The in-depth critical review and synthesis of the literature demonstrated that evidence-based nursing could be defined as a distinct concept. The review clearly shows that for evidence-based nursing to occur, nurses need to be aware of what evidence-based nursing means, what constitutes evidence, how evidence-based nursing differs from evidence-based medicine and evidence-based practice and what the process is to engage with and apply the evidence.

Conclusion: The in-depth critical review and synthesis of the evidence-based nursing literature reinforces the need to consolidate a position for nursing in the evidence-based field. The review confirms that evidence-based nursing can be defined and conceptualised; however, for nurses to engage and apply with the evidence-based processes they need to be informed of what these are and how to engage with them in practice.

Relevance to clinical practice: This paper examines the concept of evidence-based nursing and its application to clinical practice.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Evidence-Based Nursing*
  • Nurses