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Health Science Research (Evidence Based): Evidence-Based Definitions

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What is Evidence-Based Practice

There are many definitions of Evidence-Based Practice (EBP). It is the integration of the best research evidence, clinical expertise and patient needs that will result in the best patient outcomes. EBP is an umbrella term that covers evidence-based medicine, evidence-based nursing, evidence-based public health, evidence-based dentistry, etc. Each specialty, however, may have their own approach to implementation.

The term evidence-based medicine was coined in the early 1990’s by David Sackett and colleagues at McMaster University in Ontario, CA.  The definition has been refined as "the integration of best research evidence with clinical expertise and patient values" to achieve optimal clinical outcomes.

From a nursing perspective, Melnyk, Fineout-Overholt, Stillwell & Williamson (2010) define evidence-based practice as "a problem-solving approach to the delivery of health care that integrates best evidence from studies and patient care data with clinician expertise and patient preferences and values."

What is Evidence-Based Nursing Practice

Definitions of evidence based nursing vary in the literature.  Scott & McSherry's (2009) review of the literature synthesized them to come up with the following definition: "An ongoing process by which evidence, nursing theory and the practitioners’ clinical expertise are critically evaluated and considered, in conjunction with patient involvement, to provide delivery of optimum nursing care for the individual."

Evidence based nursing practice involves the following steps (Melnyk et al., 2010):

  • Asking a clinical question
  • Searching for the best evidence
  • Critically appraising the evidence
  • Integrating the evidence with one’s clinical expertise and patient preferences and values
  • Evaluating the outcomes of practice decisions or changes based on evidence





Melnyk, B. M., Fineout-Overholt, E., Stillwell, S. B., & Williamson, K. M. (2010). Evidence-based practice: Step by step. The seven steps of evidence-based practice: Following this progressive, sequential approach will lead to improved health care and patient outcomes. American Journal of Nursing, 110(1), 51-53.

Sackett, D. L. (2000). Evidence-based medicine: How to practice and teach EBM (2nd ed.). Edinburgh; New York: Churchill Livingstone.


Scott, K. & McSherry, R. (2009). Evidence based nursing: Clarifying the concepts for nurses in practice. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 18(8), 1085-95.