Research Utilization by Staff Nurses in the Acute Care Setting

Monday, 9 November 2015

Marilyn Sue Ayars, BSN, BA, AA, RN
Gianpaolo Femino, BSN, MSS, BSS, RN
Zeta Kappa-at-Large Chapter, Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Nursing Society, Las Vegas, NV, USA


Background: Research utilization in nursing practice has brought dramatic improvements in patient outcomes and is considered one of the pillars of evidence-based practice (EBP).  Research in nursing practice is utilized in generating evidence-based practice to influence policies and procedures, and to have an effect on individual, organizational, regional and international attitude and culture.  Research includes scientific-based research, as well as broad-based general knowledge research, with the goal of using best evidence in the provision of patient care in the health care system.

Methods:  To ascertain how often staff nurses apply research findings in their practice, and what factors enhance or obstruct the process.  The methodology design employed was an exploratory, descriptive sample survey.  A five point Lickert scale was used with a value of one point being equivalent to “strongly disagree,” a value of five points being equivalent to “strongly agree,” and a value of three points being neutral.  The questions determined the type of knowledge that participants rely on during the decision making process in their nursing practice.  Items addressed included the participant’s reliability on nursing experience, policies and procedures, in-service education, continuing education, conferences, knowledge learned from colleagues and peers, nursing journals, and information sought through research.  The survey also measured the participant’s use of research for evidence-based practice, general knowledge, research projects, and educational requirements.  Additionally, the survey addressed the reasons that nurses utilize research, and questioned how often research was conducted to educate patients and peers, or to improve their practice.

Participants:  The participants were registered nurses from a Western regional, mid-sized hospital in the United States.  Demographics were collected on each participant’s age, gender, level of nursing education, number of years practicing as a nurse, and the number of years in the present position.  Participation was encouraged by the use of anonymous data collection.

Targeted Audience:  Nurses of all levels, nursing students, staff managers, administrators, and educators.  The intended audience encompasses clinical, administrative, and academic disciplines across local, regional, and international settings.

Barriers:  It was found that research utilization is impeded by lack of access to research materials, computer data bases, or research engines; inadequate support systems within the organization; lack of research skills or knowledge; unawareness of the importance of research; insufficient time to research and utilize findings in evidence-based practice; not knowledgeable of autonomy to research and apply evidence-based practice; and no pay for off-floor time.

Results:  Nurses relied mostly on hospital policy and procedures, personal experience and colleagues’ experience. The obstacles reported were similar to those found in other studies, which included lack of time, lack of support, and lack of resources. The sample’s general attitude toward research utilization and evidence-based practice was positive. There was an expectation for more guidance from the management level.

Conclusion: The results of the study were similar to other analogue researches. In order to improve research utilization by staff nurses, more assistance and educational support is needed. Nurses with Master’s or Doctorate degrees could be promoted as EBP coaches, as well as staffing one or two librarians in hospitals. 

Keywords:  Registered Nurses, nursing research, evidence-based practice, research utilization