Evidence-based health care: development and audit of a clinical standard for research and its impact on an NHS trust

Claire Parkin, Ian Bullock
Journal of Clinical Nursing 2005, 14 (4): 418-25

BACKGROUND: Working within a modern National Health Service in the United Kingdom, the place for research and its dissemination is increasingly important. The organization of this within each National Health Service (NHS) Trust is challenging but nevertheless essential. If health care professionals are to be empowered to adopt an evidence-based approach in both the planning and delivery of care, research aware employees are crucial.

AIMS AND OBJECTIVES: This paper highlights the importance of NHS hospital trusts implementing initiatives that will facilitate this process. One such initiative has been the development and survey of a clinical standard for research. The primary development aim was to provide a benchmark standard for all nursing research. The standard was developed to fit within the current dynamic quality improvement (DQI) programme and has directly contributed to an evolving culture of research by shaping nurses' awareness, and offering a support and consultancy network within the Trust. The standard is one aspect of a research awareness programme, with the primary objective of providing guidance and education whilst developing nurses throughout the research process. The planned strategic outcome is to see a positive outcome on the quality of research in the Trust.

DESIGN: A baseline survey was conducted to provide a definitive snap shot of research understanding and practice within the Trust following the introduction of the research standard.

METHODS: The standard was developed by a team of clinicians led by a member of the quality team, to ensure that it fitted the DQI structure, and a member of the Nursing Research Unit (NRU). The standard was distributed to every clinical area and 192 nurses were surveyed to evaluate its impact on their awareness of educational opportunities, their use of the consultancy and support service, their use of other support services, their research utilization and research quality.

RESULTS: The survey demonstrated that the implementation of the standard had increased awareness related to both formal and informal educational and research opportunities. It identified current nurses' strengths and weaknesses relative to all aspects of the research process, particularly in obtaining ethical approval for studies. A rolling programme of research education enabled nurses to gain essential knowledge and skills in supporting their developing research awareness, consumption and conduct of research.

RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE: The NRU, through this process, has formed an effective alliance between clinical nurses and research facilitators in promoting high quality research. The foundations to continue to support this within the Trust are now well established.

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