The role of professional journals in the translation of evidence
Nightingale ensured from the outset that nursing should have a focus on quality improvement through the utilization of best evidence in clinical decision-making. Despite this focus, research continues to show that nurses value knowledge gained from colleagues and from their own experience in preference to searching for published evidence to support best practice. In addition, the translation of evidence into practice does not regularly occur. The lack of uptake of evidence to practice is an issue explored by Eizenberg (2011) in this issue of the Journal of Advanced Nursing. Eizenberg investigated the personal and professional qualities and characteristics of nurses and their uptake of evidence in clinical practice. The findings suggest that nurses fundamentally need easy access to the very tools that will support them to access and use evidence, such as well-equipped libraries and computers. However, Eizenberg (2011) also concludes that exposure to professional journals, such as the Journal of Advanced Nursing, is important for nurses.
We know that professional journals play an important role in facilitating the dissemination of evidence and information. Journals have measures/indicators such as impact factors; however, this is not a measure of impact of research on practice or impact on patient outcomes. What do professional journals do to help facilitate the translation of evidence into clinical practice? Some of the processes that journals already use to better facilitate translation of evidence include online publication, critical review by peers, readers feedback forums, document production, creation of debate and setting standards for the work of others. Generally the process of peer review is considered credible and forms a solid foundation for the dissemination of evidence-based best practice. Given this effort by journals, what more can be done to facilitate translation of evidence?
Translation of new knowledge into practice is thought to involve several stages including awareness, acceptance and adoption. Published nursing research generally has a focus on awareness and acceptance. Going forward, we need a greater understanding of how adoption of evidence occurs. Rarely are recommendations made in published papers that may facilitate adoption of research into practice. Professional journals may do more to ensure that the knowledge produced and published is presented in a concise and easily understood format. Highly complex papers, in spite of containing important message, will not engage a broad readership.
Measuring the ultimate impact of evidence in nursing care remains a continuing challenge. The link between describing a body of evidence and translating that evidence into practice or policy remains tenuous at best. Perhaps the greatest challenge is creating a demand for evidence-based information among clinicians while ensuring that they have the tools and processes before them to facilitate adoption of that evidence. Going forward, the goal remains the same as it was in Nightingale’s era – better health outcomes for people through evidence-informed decision-making.