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HPNA Position Statement
Evidence-Based Practice

Increased attention is being directed toward the development of methods that can provide valid and reliable information about what works best in healthcare.
The careful scientific evaluation of clinical practice became a prominent focus during the second half of the 20th century.1 More recently, attention has been paid to methods of determining which of multiple proven approaches to a healthcare problem works best for which patients.2 Evidence-based practice encompasses implementing the best-known practices into the clinical setting using a scientific approach. It evolved from evidence-based medicine, which was developed in Canada to teach medical students. “Evidence-based medicine has been defined as the conscientious, explicit, and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients.”3, p. 3 The
National Quality Forum’s report A National Framework and Preferred Practices for Palliative and Hospice Care Quality is a consensus report that is a first step toward introducing evidence-based measures into palliative practice on a formal, national level.4 The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) supports organizations in their efforts to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare by facilitating the use of evidence-based research findings in clinical practice.5 The nursing discipline has also embraced evidence-based practice over the past
25 years, initially through its support of “research utilization,” the integration of research into nursing curricula, and the education of nurse scientists. Sigma
Theta Tau International, the Honor Society of Nursing, considers evidence-based nursing “as an integration of the best evidence available, nursing expertise and the values and preferences of the individuals, families, and communities who are served.”6 Clinical practice guidelines, evidence reports, and clinical/critical pathways for practicing clinicians are central to evidence-based practice.7
Rosswurm and Larrabee developed a model, derived from theoretical and research literature that guides nurses through a systematic process for the change to evidence-based practice. The steps of the model are as follows:
1. Assess need for change in practice;
2. Link problem with interventions and outcomes;


Synthesize best evidence;
Design a change in practice;
Implement and evaluate the practice change;
Integrate and maintain the practice change.8

Evidence-based practice has the potential to improve the quality of care and enhance clinical judgment in serious and life-threatening illness. Hospice and palliative nurses must know how to obtain, interpret, and integrate the best available research evidence with patient data and clinical observations.
Employers of hospice and palliative nurses also have an instrumental role to play in supporting evidence-based practice. Researchers from across healthcare disciplines must actively continue to expand the knowledge base about what constitutes quality of care for persons with life limiting illnesses. Finally, the federal government, through the National Institutes of Health, must continue to fund research of persons facing life-limiting illness.
The Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association (HPNA) supports the development and implementation of evidence-based nursing practice in palliative care. Position Statement

Hospice and palliative nurses must actively engage in using evidence
(e.g., clinical practice guidelines, evidence reports, and clinical/critical pathways) to guide the care they provide to persons, and their families, at the end of life.
Hospice and palliative nurses must actively participate in the development of clinical practice guidelines as well as clinical/critical pathways.
Nurse researchers, in collaboration with researchers from other disciplines, must actively engage in research to identify the elements, standards, and benchmarks of quality care for persons with serious and life-threatening illnesses.
Organizations employing hospice and palliative nurses must assure that their organization has an “organizational capacity for change,”7 including the necessary infrastructure to support evidence-based practice.
The National Institutes of Health, including but not limited to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, should continue to fund research for persons facing serious and life-threatening illness.
Hospice and palliative practitioners must follow the preferred practices outlined in the National Quality Forum’s Framework and the National
Consensus Project’s Clinical Practice Guidelines for Quality Palliative
Healthcare organizations, payors, educators, and providers must advocate for expanded federal funding for research for persons facing serious and life-threatening illness.


HPNA will continue to develop evidence-based educational materials that support hospice and palliative nurses to provide optimum care to persons, and their families, at the end of life.

Definition of Terms
Clinical/Critical Pathways: “A clinical (critical) pathway directs the entire healthcare team in the daily care goals for select healthcare problems. It includes a nursing care plan, interventions specific for each day of hospitalization, and a documentation tool. The clinical pathway is part of a case management system that organizes and sequences the caregiving process at the patient level to better achieve quality and cost outcomes… The case types selected for clinical pathways are usually those that occur in high volume and are highly predictable.”9, p. 13
Clinical Practice Guideline: “Systematically developed statement designed to assist practitioner and patient make decisions about appropriate healthcare for specific clinical circumstances.”10
Comparative Effectiveness: A type of healthcare research that compares the results of one approach for managing a disease to the results of other approaches. Comparative effectiveness usually compares two or more types of treatment, such as different drugs, for the same disease. Comparative effectiveness also can compare types of surgery or other kinds of medical procedures and tests. The results often are summarized in a systematic review.11
Evidence-Based Practice: "The conscientious, explicit, and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of the individual patient. It means integrating individual clinical expertise with the best available external clinical evidence from systematic research.”12 Evidence-based practice is a blending of patient values and preferences to determine the best care for the patient.5 Research Utilization: “Broadly speaking, research utilization refers to the use of some aspect of a scientific investigation in an application unrelated to the original research. Current conceptualizations of research utilization recognize a continuum in terms of the specificity or diffuseness of the use to which knowledge is put. At one end of the continuum are discrete, clearly identifiable attempts to base some specific action on the results of research findings…
However, there is a growing awareness that research can be utilized in a more diffuse manner—in a way that promotes cumulative awareness, understanding, or enlightenment…research utilization at all points along this continuum appears to be an appropriate goal for nurses.”13, p. 25-26













Tunis SR, Stryer DB, Clancy CM. Practical clinical trials: increasing the value of clinical research for decision making in clinical and health policy.
JAMA. 2003;290(12):1624-32.
Committee on Comparative Effectiveness Research Prioritization, Institute of Medicine. Initial National Priorities for Comparative Effectiveness
Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2009.
Available at: Accessed April
10, 2012.
Lipman AG. Evidenced-based palliative care. In: Lipman AG, Jackson KC,
Tyler LS, eds. Evidenced Based Symptom Control in Palliative Care –
Systematic Reviews and Validated Clinical Practice Guidelines for 15
Common Problems in Patients with Life Limiting Disease. Binghamton,
NY: Haworth Press, Inc.; 2000:1-9.
National Quality Forum. A National Framework and Preferred Practices for
Palliative and Hospice Care Quality. Washington, DC: National Quality
Forum; 2006.
Pape TM. Evidence-based nursing practice: to infinity and beyond. The
Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing. 2003;34(4):154-61.
Sigma Theta Tau International. Evidence-Based Nursing Position
Statement. 2005. Available at: er.aspx. Accessed April 10, 2012.
Cronenwett LR. Keynote address: Midwest nursing research society
March 3, 2001: Research, practice and policy: issues in evidence based care. Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. Accessed February 19, 2002.
Rosswurm MA, Larrabee JH. Model for change to evidence-based practice. Image: Journal of Nursing Scholarship. 1999;31(4):317-22.
O’Brian PG. Critical thinking in the nursing process. In: Lewis SM,
Heitkemper MM, Dirkson SR. eds. Medical-Surgical Nursing. 6th ed. St.
Louis, MO: Mosby; 2004:13.
Institute of Medicine, Field MJ, Lohr KN. eds. Clinical Practice Guidelines:
Directions for a New Program. Washington, DC: National Academy Press;
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Effective Health Care
Program: Glossary of Terms. Rockville, MD: AHRQ. Available at: Accessed
March 23, 2012.
Sackett DL, Rosenberg WM, Gray JA, Haynes RB, Richardson WS.
Evidence based medicine: what it is and what it isn't. BMJ.
Polit DF, Hungler BP. Nursing Research Principles and Methods. 5th ed.,
Philadelphia, PA: J.B. Lippincott; 1995:25-26.


Approved by the HPNA Board of Directors
July 2012
This position statement reflects the bioethics standards or best available clinical evidence at the time of writing or revisions.
Copyright © 2004, 2008, 2012 by Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association
To obtain copies of HPNA Position statements, contact the National Office at
One Penn Center West, Suite 425, Pittsburgh, PA 15276-0100
Phone (412) 787-9301
Fax (412) 787-9305

HPNA Mission Statement:
To advance expert care in serious illness.


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