In this age of evidence-based practice, nurses are increasingly expected to use research evidence in a systematic and judicious way when making decisions about patient care practices. Clinicians recognise the role of research when it provides valid, realistic answers in practical situations. Nonetheless, research is still perceived by some nurses as external to practice and implementing research findings into practice is often difficult. Since its conceptual platform in the 1960s, the emergence and growth of Nursing Development Units, and later, Practice Development Units has been described in the literature as strategic, organisational vehicles for changing the way nurses think about nursing by promoting and supporting a culture of inquiry and research-based practice. Thus, some scholars argue that practice development is situated in the gap between research and practice. Since the 1990s, the discourse has shifted from the structure and outcomes of developing practice to the process of developing practice, using a Practice Development methodology; underpinned by critical social science theory, as a vehicle for changing the culture and context of care. The nursing and practice development literature is dominated by descriptive reports of local practice development activity, typically focusing on reflection on processes or outcomes of processes, and describing perceived benefits. However, despite the volume of published literature, there is little published empirical research in the Australian or international context on the effectiveness of Practice Development as a methodology for changing the culture and context of care - leaving a gap in the literature. The aim of this study was to develop, implement and evaluate the effectiveness of a Practice Development model for clinical practice review and change on changing the culture and context of care for nurses working in an acute care setting. A longitudinal, pre-test/post-test, non-equivalent control group design was used to answer the following research questions: 1. Is there a relationship between nurses' perceptions of the culture and context of care and nurses' perceptions of research and evidence-based practice? 2. Is there a relationship between engagement in a facilitated process of Practice Development and change in nurses' perceptions of the culture and context of care? 3. Is there a relationship between engagement in a facilitated process of Practice Development and change in nurses' perceptions of research and evidence-based practice? Through a critical analysis of the literature and synthesis of the findings of past evaluations of Nursing and Practice Development structures and processes, this research has identified key attributes consistent throughout the chronological and theoretical development of Nursing and Practice Development that exemplify a culture and context of care that is conducive to creating a culture of inquiry and evidence-based practice. The study findings were then used in the development, validation and testing of an instrument to measure change in the culture and context of care. Furthermore, this research has also provided empirical evidence of the relationship of the key attributes to each other and to barriers to research and evidence-based practice. The research also provides empirical evidence regarding the effectiveness of a Practice Development methodology in changing the culture and context of care. This research is noteworthy in its contribution to advancing the discipline of nursing by providing evidence of the degree to which attributes of the culture and context of care, namely autonomy and control, workplace empowerment and constructive team dynamics, can be connected to engagement with research and evidence-based practice
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