Evidence and what it really means

Finding the evidence and knowing what it means (and what it doesn’t)…

Hello and welcome to my first blog entry for professionals who are interested in improving infant feeding! In my inaugural entry, I want to spend a little time discussing research. I often receive feedback from my conferences that clinicians appreciate having research broken down and explained. Most clinicians are so busy that it’s difficult to keep up with current research. Additionally, many of us have not been taught how to look for “best evidence” so we rely on the peer review process. In other words, “if it’s published it must be true”. In response to frequent requests from participants in my trainings, I am starting a blog that hopefully will help you learn about how to find and critically read research.

As a clinician and bedside provider, I look for evidence that helps me support babies and families during their stay in the NICU. However, I also have a Ph.D. in Clinical Science – Health Services Research from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. This degree prepared me to be a researcher: to both write my own research protocols as well as to read and critically evaluate research. While I believe that everyone conducting research has the best of intentions, several articles related to oral feeding for medically complex and/or premature infants have been designed and written by researchers who do not work at the bedside. Some have never fed an infant, and many have never helped an infant transition from birth through full oral feedings. Even fewer follow infants post-discharge. Throughout my career I’ve had, and continue to have, the privilege and pleasure of doing all of these.

I believe I have a different perspective – and a different desired outcome – than some in this field. I am interested in establishing a strong foundation for the continued development of feeding skills. As I start this blog, my goal is to provide a “cheat sheet” similar to what I use when reviewing literature. We will go through in detail what I look for.  My goal is to give you a way to critically think about what the research does and does not show, so that you do not have to rely on the discussion provided by the authors.  In the future, I’ll be critically reviewing articles as part of my “Research Reviews” mentoring.  Research reviews will focus on the critical thinking about both what a specific article shows, and what the gaps may be.

I look forward to providing you, the busy clinician with the tools to more critically review evidence, and the next blog will begin that process.

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