Objectives: Despite a growing interest in evidence-based practice (EBP), the implementation into clinical practice of knowledge derived from research has proved to be a cumbersome process. Additionally, the literature seems to present a fragmented picture with research mainly focusing on a few factors of possible importance, among which leadership appears to be one of the more important. Thus, this study aimed to systematically review the literature regarding leadership and its possible influence on the process of implementing EBP.
Approach: A literature review was conducted. Electronic database searches were conducted to identify studies on leadership, administrators, managers, implementation, evidence-based and nursing. The search identified 43 potentially relevant papers, of which 36 were excluded after an appraisal was performed by two independent reviewers. Results were extracted and synthesised into a narrative text.
Findings: Seven papers were included in the literature review. The findings can be divided into three major areas: (1) characteristics of the leader, (2) characteristics of the organisation and (3) characteristics of the culture. Our findings indicate that leadership is vital for the process of implementing EBP in nursing and also highlights the possible importance of the organisation and the culture in which the leader operates. These factors together with their characteristics were interpreted to be intrinsic in the creation of a nursing milieu that is open and responsive to the implementation of EBP.
Conclusions: Although there seems to be scholarly agreement that leadership is a vital part of the process of implementing EBP, more rigorous research is needed concerning the possible role of the leader. Our findings also indicate that leadership cannot be studied in isolation or without being clearly defined.