Evidence-based practice: What do undergraduate health students think it means?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Evidence based practice (EBP) is a client-centred, collaborative process of enquiry and reasoning to facilitate defensible healthcare decisions. Developing EBP-competence in health students starts with ensuring that they understand what EBP means. This study explored the meanings undergraduate health students ascribe to EBP and investigated whether these meanings differ based on year level, discipline, or gender.
Methods and Analysis: An online survey of 584 undergraduate students in 20 health degree courses was conducted. This study focuses on the students’ responses to one open-ended question in that survey: ‘What does EBP mean to you?’ Druckman’s method of content analysis, using both etic and emic categories, guided the analysis of the students’ responses.
Results: Only 377 (two-thirds) of the 584 students who submitted the survey provided an answer to the question; approximately half of those in their first year and three-quarters of those in their final year. Most responses demonstrated a very limited understanding of EBP as a process or set of principles. Differences in EBP conceptualisations based on year level, discipline, and gender were negligible.
Discussion and Conclusions: Across all sample subgroups, the majority of students in this study demonstrated a simplistic understanding of EBP. For EBP to achieve its full potential, undergraduate health students may require frequent and explicit exposure to all five steps of the EBP process. If new graduates do not understand EBP to be a contextualised and collaborative process, there is a risk that the potential value of EBP will continue to be compromised.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12-29
Number of pages18
JournalFocus on Health Professional Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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