What are systematic reviews?

A high-quality systematic review is designed to be the most reliable source of evidence to guide clinical practice. The purpose of a systematic review is to deliver a detailed summary of all the available primary research in response to a well constructed, specific research question.

Systematic reviews use existing research and are sometimes called ‘secondary research’ (research based on research). Today, systematic reviews are often required by funding agencies and institutions to establish a baseline of existing knowledge and are frequently used in healthcare guideline development.

In nursing, researchers may be interested in questions of systematic reviews about the effectiveness of interventions on patient outcomes.  These types of reviews synthesize quantitative research via a meta-analysis (a statistical pooling of data extracted from primary research) or if meta-analysis is not possible, a narrative and tabular synthesis of extracted data. When meta-analysis is possible, the research can determine confidence intervals and judge the precision of the pooled result.  In addition, the statistical procedures (eg odds ratios, weighted mean differences) weigh the contribution of individual studies so that low powered, imprecise studies contribute less to the bottom line than a high powered, precise study.  Therefore, clinical decision-makers can have more confidence in the direction and magnitude of the findings because of the rigor and power of the pooled result.

In addition to the evidence about the effectiveness of interventions, nurses need to understand how patients experience their health, illness, symptoms and even the way that we deliver care.  The richness of meaning of an experience cannot be extracted from a trial.  Instead, qualitative evidence is more appropriate to address these kinds of questions.  Systematic reviews of qualitative evidence synthesize narrative data by aggregating themes and findings from primary qualitative studies.  These types of systematic reviews can help nurses understand patient values, preferences and experiences.

Systematic reviews are marked by transparency in methods and exhaustive approaches to searching.  Therefore, the authors should identify the search strategy, sources (which should be many relevant databases and grey literature sources), key words and even the logic of the search. In addition, the authors should be very clear what types of studies they considered and what tools they used to judge the quality of the evidence.  At least two researchers should have evaluated the studies for inclusion and verified the data extraction.  If these elements of transparency are missing, it is difficult to judge the quality of the systematic review or if it is a systematic review at all.–Lisa Hopp PhD, RN

Systematic Review Training 2012

The Indiana Center for Evidence-based Nursing Practice announces its 2012 Comprehensive Systematic Review Training Sessions

June 25-29, 2012 in Munster, Indiana (near Chicago)

“The nation must significantly expand its capacity to use scientific evidence to assess ‘what works in health care’.” (The Institute of Medicine, 2008). They identify systematic reviews as a key strategy to realize this goal. The Systematic Review Training Sessions are being led by certified trainers (Joanna Briggs Institute). This opportunity is for anyone interested in learning how to conduct a systematic review.

We will hold training at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Munster Indiana. Please use the group/convention code “PUC” when registering at the hotel for a nightly rate of $119 + tax. Please bring a laptop computer (either PC or Mac) for the training sessions. There is free wireless throughout the hotel.

Systematic Reviews are the backbone of evidence-based practice. Attend this rigorous 5-day training workshop and become certified to conduct sytematic reviews using JBI software. This software is unique, providing tools for synthesis of quantitative and qualitative evidence.

Candidates who successfully complete the workshop will be certified systematic reviewers and able to register their systematic reviews with the Joanna Briggs Institute.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation commissioned the Institute of Medicine to convene a comittee to study ways to better identify the most effective health care services. The resulting report, published in January 2008, is an important call to action: “The central premise underlying the report is that decisions about the care of individual patients should be based on the current best evidence available, and that having a single body charged with evaluating and sorting information will help to clarify for physicians, health care providers, and patients which evidence is valid.” Read the report online or purchase from the National Academies Press and/or listen to podcasts.

Because of the interactive nature of the workshop places are limited.  Contact Director Lisa Hopp for questions.

Click here for information on accommodations and directions to the hotel.

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NursingEvidence.com is a community designed to support evidence-based nursing practice and education.

This site aims to provide practical information for students and nurses who want to do what is right for and with patients. The websites, conferences, podcasts, and materials provided or linked to here are meant to provide news, ideas, evidence sources, and guide your efforts using the best available evidence.