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Implications of evidence-based practice for mental health nursing


  • Jacklin E. Fisher, RN, RPN, MA.

  • Brenda Happell, RN, RPN, BA(Hons), BEd, Dip Ed, MEd, PhD.

Brenda Happell, Department of Health Innovation, Faculty of Science, Engineering and Health, and Institute for Health and Social Science Research, CQUniversity Australia, Bruce Hwy, Rockhampton, Qld 4702, Australia. Email:


The introduction of evidence-based practice (EBP) and the hierarchical approach to evidence it engenders within research and evaluation has aroused controversy in the mental health professions. The aim of this paper is to present a critique of EBP with a specific relationship to mental health nursing. It will be argued that in its current form, EBP presents a potential impediment to the facilitation of consumer participation in mental health services and to the recovery model. The need for the consumer voice and the importance of the lived experience of mental illness are not readily reconciled with a strong scientific paradigm that promotes detachment and objectivity. The importance of evidence in contemporary mental health care will also be acknowledged and discussed in light of the current climate of increased consumer knowledge, fiscal constraint, and extensive social criticism of mental health-care services. The current approach to EBP requires reconstruction to support the consumer-focused nature of mental health nursing, and to facilitate the implementation of a recovery model for mental health care.