Evidence and expertise

Nursing Inquiry 13 (2):82-93 (2006)
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This paper evaluates attempts to defend established concepts of expertise and clinical judgement against the incursions of evidence‐based practice. Two related arguments are considered. The first suggests that standard accounts of evidence‐based practice imply an overly narrow view of ‘evidence’, and that a more inclusive concept, incorporating ‘patterns of knowing’ not recognised by the familiar evidence hierarchies, should be adopted. The second suggests that statistical generalisations cannot be applied non‐problematically to individual patients in specific contexts, and points out that this is why we need clinical judgement. In evaluating the first argument, I propose a criterion for what counts as evidence. It is a minimalist criterion but the ‘patterns of knowing’, referred to in the literature, still fail to meet it. In evaluating the second argument, I will outline the powerful empirical reasons we have for thinking that decisions based on research evidence are usually better than decisions based on clinical judgement; and show that current efforts to rehabilitate clinical judgement seriously underestimate the strength of these reasons. By way of conclusion, I will sketch the ways in which the concept of expertise will have to be modified if we accept evidence‐based practice as a template for health‐care.



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References found in this work

The logic of scientific discovery.Karl Raimund Popper - 1934 - New York: Routledge. Edited by Hutchinson Publishing Group.
Scientific reasoning: the Bayesian approach.Peter Urbach & Colin Howson - 1993 - Chicago: Open Court. Edited by Peter Urbach.

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