Background: The interest in finding ways to bridge the gap between nursing research and implementation of findings into practice has been increasing. Clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) may be a bridge between frontline nurses and current developments in practice. While several researchers have studied the use of evidence by nurses in general, no known studies have been focused specifically on the use of evidence by CNSs.
Purpose: The purpose of this pilot study was to develop an understanding of the sources, nature, and application of evidence used by CNSs in practice and to investigate the feasibility of conducting a qualitative study focused on the CNS role in relation to evidence use in practice.
Methods: This pilot study is a descriptive exploratory design in the qualitative paradigm. Seven CNSs from a large Western Canadian health region were interviewed. Interview transcripts were reviewed for recurrent themes about sources of evidence, evidence use, and barriers and facilitators to evidence use.
Findings: CNSs access and use evidence from a variety of sources. All CNSs indicated that research literature was a primary source of evidence and research was used in decision-making. Peers and experience were also important sources of evidence. CNSs used the Internet extensively to consult research databases, online sources of evidence, and to contact peers about current practice. CNSs also gathered evidence from frontline nurses, healthcare team members, and families before decision-making. The choice of evidence often depended upon the type of question they were attempting to answer. Barriers cited by CNSs support previous research and included lack of time, resources, and receptivity at clinical and organizational levels. Facilitators included peers, organizational support, and advanced education.
Discussion: CNSs in Canada have advanced education and clinical expertise and many are employed in roles that permeate organizational management and clinical nursing care. It is suggested that qualitative research in naturalized settings that investigates the role of CNSs in relation to the dissemination of evidence in nursing practice needs attention.