I have worked in social care for a large portion of my nursing career and recently have been hugely aware of how much evidence-based practice matters in social care, how it can be used to progress this dynamic and forward-thinking branch of nursing and how it can sustain and improve the lives of the people we care for.
In social care nursing, and indeed in nursing in general, we can often get so caught up in day-to-day work that we forget to look up and think “is there a better way” and really and truly examine the evidence, or perhaps lack of, behind our actions.
“This commitment to evidence-based practice needs not only to come from individual nurses in social care but also from organisations”
The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) Code (2015) mentions use of evidence to inform practice in two places. The first is in section 6:
“Always practise in line with the best available evidence.
To achieve this, you must:
6.1 make sure that any information or advice given is evidence-based, including information relating to using any health and care products or services
6.2 maintain the knowledge and skills you need for safe and effective practice”
This is certainly something that is stressed in nursing from studying at university – we can all recall our days as students when the importance of evidence-based practice was drilled into us. However, how often do we pause what we are doing to realise what this really means in practice?
In social care in particular, many nurses work autonomously, often leading teams of care staff and making complex clinical decisions. Evidence and research is a way to optimise clinical judgement by giving nurses the knowledge on which to base their decisions. There is a certain confidence apparent in practice when nurses are aware of the evidence and research behind an aspect of care; this instils trust, not only in the people we care for, but also the teams we lead.
For nurses working in social care, who often don’t have large teams or vast resources to call upon, the way that evidence can improve practice is vital. By staying connected and up-to-date with innovation, current thinking, best practice, research and evidence, nurses in social care can broaden their thinking to see the wider picture rather than merely being aware of the task in front of them.
It’s important to understand that this commitment to evidence-based practice needs not only to come from individual nurses in social care but also from organisations.
With many organisations in social care being small and sometimes isolated, it’s imperative that providers start to think differently, including finding better, more effective and streamlined ways to work and learn from others. By encouraging, embracing and championing evidence-based practice and, through this, nurse-led improvement, social care providers can provide the very best in person-centred care.
The second mention of evidence-based practice in the NMC Code (2015) is in section 19, relating to preserving safety:
“19.2 take account of current evidence, knowledge and developments in reducing mistakes and the effect of them and the impact of human factors and system failures”
This is about providing high-quality, safe care and the role that evidence and research plays in that. For nurses in social care, this is of huge importance because, often working within small organisations, they can be the sole nurse on duty. Being aware of evidence around preserving safety and applying that evidence to practice can ensure mistakes are reduced before they even happen. The knock-on effect is both in reducing harm to the people we care for and the benefits this has on teams, individual nurses and organisations.
Everyone has a role to play in promoting and championing evidence-based practice in social care, from providers and directors to managers and nurses.
As nurses in social care, we need to be sure there is robust evidence and reasoning to provide excellent care. Ultimately, evidence-based practice matters, not just because it helps us deliver the very best to the people we care for, but also because it means we become confident, safe and trusted nurses.
Teresa Chinn is registered nurse and social media specialist, WeNurses
Nursing and Midwifery Council (2015) The Code: Professional Standards of Practice and Behaviour for Nurses, Midwives and Nursing Associates. NMC.