Acute care nurses' perceptions of barriers to using research information in clinical decision-making


Dorothy McCaughan, Centre for Evidence Based Nursing, Department of Health Sciences, Alcuin Teaching Building, University of York, York YO10 5DD, UK. E-mail:


Aim.  To examine the barriers that nurses feel prevent them from using research in the decisions they make.

Background.  A sizeable research literature focusing on research utilization in nursing has developed over the past 20 years. However, this literature is characterized by a number of weaknesses: self-reported utilization behaviour; poor response rates and small, nonrandom sampling strategies.

Design.  Cross-case analysis involving anonymised qualitative interviews, observation, documentary audit and Q methodological modelling of shared subjectivities amongst nurses. The case sites were three large acute hospitals in the north of England. One hundred and eight nurses were interviewed, 61 of whom were also observed for a total of 180 h, and 122 nurses were involved in the Q modelling exercise (response rate of 64%).

Results.  Four perspectives were isolated that encompassed the characteristics associated with barriers to research use. These related to the individual, organization, nature of research information itself and environment. Nurses clustered around four main perspectives on the barriers to research use: (1) Problems in interpreting and using research products, which were seen as too complex, ‘academic’ and overly statistical; (2) Nurses who felt confident with research-based information perceived a lack of organizational support as a significant block; (3) Many nurses felt that researchers and research products lack clinical credibility and that they fail to offer the desired level of clinical direction; (4) Some nurses lacked the skills and, to a lesser degree, the motivation to use research themselves. These individuals liked research messages passed on to them by a third party and sought to foster others' involvement in research-based practice, rather than becoming directly involved themselves.

Conclusions.  Rejection of research knowledge is not a barrier to its application. Rather, the presentation and management of research knowledge in the workplace represent significant challenges for clinicians, policy-makers and the research community.