“The Sky is Falling!” (or Don’t be an EBP Chicken Little)

We all know the story of Chicken Little, right?  Chicken Little is walking through the forest, an acorn falls and hits her on the head, then Chicken Little  runs about in a panic telling everyone, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” A lot of the animals are convinced, and the fox—who knows the truth that it was only an acorn—convinces Chicken Little & some other animals to come into his den to be safe from the falling sky. There he eats them. Interestingly the fox used the correct evidence well. Chicken Little & fox chicken littlecompany used evidence poorly and created a safety hazard for themselves!

Moral of the story? Don’t be a Chicken Little when it comes to reading and applying research to practice. Get all the facts before you share the research findings with others. Don’t read only the “acorn” of abstract, introduction, and discussion, and then assume that you know what the research study shows and that you can apply it to your work. Don’t turn an acorn into a falling sky!

How to avoid being an EBP Chicken Little? To avoid being an Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) Chicken Little, you should follow the example of Samantha in this research fairy tale: “Samantha…read the study abstract. Then, while Chicken Little and her friends waited anxiously, she read the introduction, the literature review, the research questions, the methods section, the findings, and the discussion section. Then she went back and read all the sections again. Finally, as Chicken Little hopped around her impatiently, she reread the findings. “Chicken Little, have you and your friends read the entire study?” asked Samantha.” (source: https://www.son.rochester.edu/student-resources/research-fables/chicken-little.html)

Why go to all this trouble? I’m busy. The reasons to take time and effort to read the WHOLE study are many. First, the subjects may not be at all like your own patient population—what if the researchers studied only “left-pawed albino hamsters”? Second, the research might not be a strong meta-analysis or randomized controlled trial whose results can actually be applied to other times and places—what if the researchers just watched subjects walk around, but didn’t test what makes them walk better?  A third reason is that the results might be statistically significant, but clinically irrelevant!—what if researchers were studying pain, but everyone in the study had 1-2 on the pain scale?

You don’t want to endanger patient safety by misunderstanding and misapplying research and then be “eaten alive” by adverse patient outcomes or by critics, who will see through your mistakes. Remember in the fairy tale Chicken Little and his careless friends misunderstood the facts, and hence were susceptible to being eaten by a fox.

What if you don’t know how to read research? No problem. Everyone who knows how to read research now had to learn it—no one was born knowing.  So,…you can learn it, too!  It doesn’t take magical powers.  Countless resources are online; others are in your hospital or in a university research course. If you check the box on this page to follow the EBP blog, (I hope) it will help, too. Go back and read earlier blogs on sections of a research report.

For more information on how to be an EBP Chicken Little (NOT) see the very creative research fairy tale by Jeanne Grace (copyright Rochester College) at https://www.son.rochester.edu/student-resources/research-fables/chicken-little.html

Critical thinking:

  1. After reading Grace’s fairy tale at the above link list at least three (3) things that Chicken Little might have learned, had she read the whole article!
  2. Compare an abstract with a full article, and check out the differences. Specifically compare the abstract at  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2606078 with what you learn about them from the full article at http://www.ncbi.nlm.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2606078nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4449996/. Did reading the whole article change the way you understand how orQUESTION whether the study might apply to your work? If so, how? And if not, why not?
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s