“Is it?” “It is!” Expert opinion as valuable evidence for practice.

Remember back when you asked your mom why you should make your bed, set the table, or do some other then-distasteful task? Maybe you said, “Do I have to?”

Because I Said SoRemember her answer? Sometimes it was just: “Because I said so!” Was that enough evidence to support your practice of setting the table or making your bed?  You bet! After all she was THE expert on such things.

Likewise…is expert opinion good evidence for your practice? Yes, it is. EXPERT OPINION of individuals or committees is the 7th level of evidence for nursing practice (Melnyk & Fineout-Overholt, 2005), and should be considered.

Of course the first question that you must ask is: “Is the person/committee (who is telling you how to prevent falls, promote safety, teach patients, and so on and on) an actual EXPERT on that topic?” The answer is a matter of judgment. If the person/committee has special education, credentials, or experience or is a recognized authority on the topic about which they are giving advice, then you could reasonably conclude yes, they are experts. In that case the advice should be considered evidence for practice.    (Caution: Your judgment of their expertise matters!–don’t just follow along.  Don’t forget that person who is expert in one area may not be an expert in another.)

The 2nd question that you must ask is; “Does any research or stronger level of evidence exist on the topic?”

  • If it does NOT exist, then you should use that expert opinion in combination with scientific principles, anecdotal case reports, and theory. Or you might create some new research yourself. (Source=Iowa EBP Model)
  • If it DOES EXIST, then you should pay most attention to the stronger evidence and interpret the weaker evidence of expert opinion in that light.

QUESTIONCritical thinking:  Try your new knowledge in this example. Many educators and professionals who run journal clubs consider journal clubs effective based on feedback from participants. At least in 2008, 80% of experimental studies suggested that journal clubs helped with learning and being able to critically review a research article. However, no research is available on whether the learning from journal clubs actually translates into practice (Deenadayalan et al., 2008). You are considering a journal club. What would you decide to do and why?

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