BACKGROUND: A variety of definitions of evidence-based practice (EBP) exist. However, definitions are in themselves insufficient to explain the underlying processes of EBP and to differentiate between an evidence-based process and evidence-based outcome. There is a need for a clear statement of what Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) means, a description of the skills required to practise in an evidence-based manner and a curriculum that outlines the minimum requirements for training health professionals in EBP. This consensus statement is based on current literature and incorporating the experience of delegates attending the 2003 Conference of Evidence-Based Health Care Teachers and Developers ("Signposting the future of EBHC").
DISCUSSION: Evidence-Based Practice has evolved in both scope and definition. Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) requires that decisions about health care are based on the best available, current, valid and relevant evidence. These decisions should be made by those receiving care, informed by the tacit and explicit knowledge of those providing care, within the context of available resources. Health care professionals must be able to gain, assess, apply and integrate new knowledge and have the ability to adapt to changing circumstances throughout their professional life. Curricula to deliver these aptitudes need to be grounded in the five-step model of EBP, and informed by ongoing research. Core assessment tools for each of the steps should continue to be developed, validated, and made freely available.
SUMMARY: All health care professionals need to understand the principles of EBP, recognise EBP in action, implement evidence-based policies, and have a critical attitude to their own practice and to evidence. Without these skills, professionals and organisations will find it difficult to provide 'best practice'.