Academic-practice partnerships to promote evidence-based practice in long-term care: oral hygiene care practices as an exemplar.Nurs Outlook. 2007 Mar-Apr; 55(2):95-105.NO
Learning in practice disciplines suffers when gaps exist between classroom instruction and students' observations of routine clinical practices.(1) Academic institutions, therefore, have a strong interest in fostering the rapid and effective translation of evidence-based care techniques into routine practice. Long-term care (LTC) practice sites are particularly vulnerable to gaps between classroom teaching and how daily care is implemented, owing to the recent rapid advances in the scientific bases of care for frail older adults, the relative isolation of most LTC sites from academic settings,(2) and the relatively small number of registered nurses (RNs) available in LTC settings who can facilitate translation of research-based practices into care.(3) The aim of this project was to demonstrate the feasibility and value of an academic practice partnership to implement evidence-based approaches to solving resident care problems in LTC, as many scientifically proven practices hold promise for improving resident outcomes yet adoption is often slow.(4) We developed and implemented a clinical practice improvement process, based on diffusion of innovations theory and research,(5-8) to serve as a new model of academic-practice collaboration between a university school of nursing, LTC facility management and direct-care staff, as a means of developing high quality clinical sites for student rotations. The goal was to implement a sustainable evidence-based oral care program as an exemplar of how scientific evidence can be translated into LTC practice. This project focused on oral hygiene because the staff was dissatisfied with their existing resident oral care program, and an evidence-base for oral care in LTC existed that had not yet been incorporated into care routines. This article describes a systematic, replicable process for linking advanced practice registered nurse expertise with staff insights about care systems to reduce the gap between teaching and practice in long-term care settings. Our experience demonstrates that translation of research on oral care practices into LTC practice through academic-practice partnerships is feasible, is associated with positive resident outcomes, and illustrates a process that has broader applicability to other common problems in LTC, where incomplete implementation of an extant research base for practice may inhibit student learning.