My graduate social work students are introduced to the concept of evidence-based practice as a process that involves the critical consumption of research data and the conduct of practice evaluation. Some of the most important things to remember about striving to honor your code of ethics in order to be an evidence-based practitioner include asking yourself these questions in a variety of situations:
- What is meant by evidence-based practice in this context?
- What is the evidence-base for this intervention?
- Does this article’s sample generalize to my client systems?
- You say this is evidence-based, but where are the data supporting that statement?
- What is the easiest but most rigorous way to evaluate my practice?
- Have I sought out client voices & more objective measures in my evaluation?
- Do the findings reveal a statistically significant difference?
- It may be statistically significant, but is it clinically meaningful?
- Was the correct statistical test used in this analysis, or is the result spurious?
- Have I questioned everything yet?
After leaving school, while it can be harder to access scholarly databases with full-text options, there are still a number of resources available to you on the Internet. Do keep an eye on NASW for guidance on this – see their current stance here. You can also join as a member and get one of their academic journals to keep up on the literature (Children & Schools, Health & Social Work, Research on Social Work Practice and Social Work). This webpage is a personal clearinghouse of websites that have been helpful to me over the years and I hope they will be helpful to you as well!
A refresher on EBP:
In case you have forgotten, evidence-based practice is a process, not a thing, and this short screencast can get you back up to speed. This is my intro talk on the process of EBP.
Developing an evidence-based mindset:
When approaching a new case, you can model the PICO approach to developing a clinical question…see those steps here.oStart by thinking about the problem (or the patient, in medical lingo). How would you describe a group of patients similar to yours? What are the most important characteristics of the patient? Then think about the intervention. What main intervention are you considering? What do you want to do with this patient? Do consider the comparison. What is the main alternative being considered, if any? And begin considering the outcome. What are you trying to accomplish, measure, improve or affect?
Various clearinghouses of information for evidence-based practice:
The Campbell Collaboration. I had you take a look at this in class, remember?
The Cochrane Library We played around with this in class as well.
Evidence-Based Practice Online Resource Training Center. Lots of help to be had here – and from social workers, to boot!
Suicide Prevention Resource Center This one is good for all populations of clients.
Think: Kids! This site presents research on work with “challenging kids.”
Find What Works! is focused on work in educational settings, especially.
Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness is focused on family interventions, and may be generalizable outside of military settings.
National Center for Evidence-Based Practice in Child Welfare for child protection workers and beyond.
Evidence-based social policy programs. For the macro-focused amongst you.
And here’s a big long list of web links from the Social Work Policy Institute
Don’t forget about implementation and process measurement:
Remember, sometimes you will struggle with the implementation of evidence-based practices, and treatment fidelity. This series of videos may help – they are short, and to the point, and you can share them with your team. You can also check out SAMHSA’s basic guide to process evaluation for implementation. If you are using motivational interviewing, you can do some process/implementation evaluation on how you are delivering the intervention itself by using this freely-accessible tool.
I hope you will find this list helpful. Please send me new links as you find them, and I will add links as I find them as well. I’m always down to help on planning or executing an evaluation once you start to need to do this on your own. You can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 978-542-7459.
I wish you all the best in your journey to be the best evidence-based practitioner you can be – you have been a joy to teach and I thank you for sticking with this tough course!