Critically appraise the relationship between theory, research, and evidence-based practice (CO 2).
Apply a theoretical framework to support an evidence-based practice change (CO 2).
What were the most important concepts you learned in week 7? Why are these concepts important?
How will they prepare you for your future role as an NP? In what ways do you feel prepared for your new role? In what ways do you feel unprepared?
In applied healthcare disciplines, such as nursing, practice is based on theories that have been identified and validated through research. Thus, practice, theory, and research affect each other in a circular, cyclic, and interactive way (Melnyk & Fineout-Overholt, 2011; McEwen & Wills, 2014).
Research is the key element in developing the nursing discipline.
Theories can be identified and tested in practice settings through research.
Theories guide nursing practice, as well as provide insights into situations for the assessment, diagnosis, and patient-care interventions.
Theories render practice more effective and efficient to benefit patient care.
Theories stimulate nurse scientists to explore significant problems in the field of nursing.
Research modifies and validates theories.
Approaches to Theory Development
Many strategies are used to develop, modify, or expand theories in nursing practice (Parker & Smith, 2015). Open the activity below to view approaches to theory development.
Approaches to Theory Development
Many strategies are used to develop, modify, or expand theories in nursing practice (Parker & Smith, 2015).
Approaches to Theory Development (Links to an external site.)
Relationship Between Research, Theory, and Philosophical Schools of Thought
The relationship between research and theory poses several interesting questions that do not have easy answers. Instead, the viewpoint of the individual asking the question becomes a major element in the answer of the relationship between research and theory. To explore the application of theory to research, the following information is considered.
Research is a critical process or method used by the nursing profession to acquire new knowledge related to its paradigms. To explain the role of theory in research, the initial step is to review the philosophical foundation of the two research methodologies used by all researchers, including nurse researchers (Parker & Smith, 2015).
Quantitative research is based on the received philosophical school of thought (i.e., logical empiricism or positivism). Within quantitative research, the highest values are placed on numerical data gathered through rigor, objectivity, and control. The ultimate goal is to determine a cause-and-effect relationship between variables. Recently, quantitative nurse scholars have been expanding beyond the rigid causal quantitative research methods to include the determination of patterns and trends to describe, explain, and predict phenomena (McEwen & Wills, 2014).
Qualitative research is based upon the contrasting perceived school of philosophical thought. Within this philosophical school, a systemic, interactive, and subjective approach is used to describe and understand human experiences. Nurse scholars using the qualitative research methods believe that knowledge (or truth) is complex and dynamic and can be determined only by studying individuals within their naturalistic settings. In other words, to separate a person from his or her settings by the rigid control of variables will provide an incomplete and inaccurate picture of the individual living with a chronic illness or some other phenomenon (Parker & Smith, 2015).
There is a complimentary relationship between theory and research. Research conducted with either philosophical school of thought can clarify, modify, and/or extend a nursing theory. Basically, there are three different ways the complementary relationship between nursing theory and research occurs. These include the following:
research ideas and studies that are generated from theory;
research that tests published theoretical concepts and relationships; and
research studies that generate or produce theory.
Using a Nursing Theory as a Framework for Evidence-Based Practice
As is evident in this week’s readings, theory, practice and research are interrelated within the nursing profession. As research efforts continue to expand nursing knowledge, efforts to translate research into practice are essential to optimize health outcomes. Nursing theories provide a necessary framework for the translation of evidence into practice, offering insight, perspective, and outcome-focused value (McEwen & Wills, 2014).
Across healthcare, application of theoretical frameworks offers a systematic approach and meaningful context for evidence-based practice (EBP). To assure effective application, the framework selected must be relevant to practice and in alignment with the overarching purpose and desired outcomes. For example, as master’s prepared nurses establish clinical practice guidelines based upon research findings, the use of a nursing theory provides a context and foundation upon which to ground the EBP (McEwen & Wills, 2014). Similarly, for master’s prepared nurses who lead planned change to improve health care quality and outcomes within an organization, use of theory offers a tangible framework for the execution of the project (Kearney-Nunnery, 2016).
In addition, the specific theory which is used as a framework can serve to substantiate key concepts which are present quality initiatives or situation-specific practice guidelines (Stevens, 2013; Kearney-Nunnery, 2016). For example, a nurse educator creating a faculty mentoring program may use Benner’s Novice to Expert Theory as a framework for the project due to alignment with the concepts surrounding professional growth and development.
Master’s prepared nurses are pivotal to the translation of evidence into practice. By selecting and applying appropriate theoretical frameworks to guide EBP, nurses can facilitate outcome achievement for patients, families, health care professionals, and health care organizations
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