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The Clinical Inquiry Process Resource Guide

The goal of this guide is to provide nurses a resource to understand and carryout the steps of performing an evidence-based practice (EBP) project.

What is Clinical Inquiry?

What is Clinical Inquiry?

Clinical inquiry in healthcare refers to the process of asking questions, investigating, and analyzing information to improve patient care and outcomes. It involves a systematic approach to gathering evidence and applying it to clinical practice. The goal of clinical inquiry is to enhance the quality and safety of healthcare by integrating the best available evidence into decision-making processes.

Key components of clinical inquiry include:

1. Asking Clinical Questions: This involves formulating clear and focused questions related to patient care. This process typically begins with posing a background question—an overarching and broad inquiry designed to gain a comprehensive understanding of the topic. Subsequently, the focus shifts toward a more specific or foreground question, often structured using the PICO(T) framework. PICO(T) stands for Patient/Population, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome, and (Time).  There are other frameworks that can be used but PICO(T) is the most common.  

2. Searching for Evidence:  Healthcare professionals conduct systematic literature reviews and searches to find relevant evidence that can help answer their clinical questions. This involves accessing databases, journals, and other sources of medical information/evidence. This can include both internal and external sources of information/evidence. 

3. Appraising Evidence: Once evidence is gathered, it needs to be critically appraised to assess its validity, reliability, and relevance. This step involves evaluating the study design, methodology, and the strength of the evidence. Depending on the evidence found or not found, a determination is made as to whether the clinical inquiry will become a research, evidence-based practice, or performance improvement project/initiative.

4. Integrating Evidence: Healthcare providers integrate the best available evidence with their clinical expertise and patient preferences to make informed decisions about patient care. This process is often referred to as evidence-based practice (EBP).

5. Implementing Changes: If the evidence suggests changes to current practices, healthcare professionals may implement these changes in clinical settings. This could involve adopting new treatments, protocols, or procedures.

6. Evaluating Outcomes: After changes are implemented, healthcare providers to continuously monitor and evaluate outcomes to assess the impact of the interventions on patient care and outcomes. This step helps to close the feedback loop and refine clinical practices further.

Clinical inquiry is an essential component when it comes to ensuring that evidence is utilized in healthcare, emphasizing the integration of the best available evidence with clinical expertise and patient values. It promotes a culture of continuous improvement in healthcare and contributes to delivering more effective, efficient, and patient-centered care.

The Clinical Inquiry Process Diagram

The Clinical Inquiry Process Diagram 

The purpose of the Clinical Inquiry Process Diagram is to provide a visual representation of the process. It also highlights the similarities and differences among research, performance improvement, and evidence-based practice, which are the three paths of inquiry a clinical question can take based on evidence.

It is important to note that the clinical inquiry process is not a linear, sequential progression. Instead, individuals may find themselves working on different parts of the process simultaneously or revisiting previous steps as they move forward. This can be influenced by various factors, such as evolving evidence, organizational changes, and team dynamics, to name a few.

Link to Diagram