Academic journal article Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession

Using an Interdisciplinary Partnership to Develop Nursing Students' Information Literacy Skills: An Evaluation

Academic journal article Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession

Using an Interdisciplinary Partnership to Develop Nursing Students' Information Literacy Skills: An Evaluation

Article excerpt


An increasing challenge for universities with distance education programs is how to provide effective student support, as teaching and learning approaches utilise technology at an increasingly sophisticated level (Andrews & Klease, 1998). Changing student demographics in Australia include growing numbers of students who choose to enrol in external mode. As the learning paradigm shifts to a more studentcentred, active learning model (Fink, 2003) with greater use of technology, students need to manage the technical demands of course delivery through use of information literacy (IL) skills. As the use of online or online reliant content increases in nursing programs, providing extra student support is vital. Learning may be delayed while students gain competence and confidence in using information technology (Creedy et al., 2007; Wallace, Shorten, Crookes, McGurk, & Brewer, 1999).

Developing effective skills in locating and retrieving information using electronic sources is integral to cultivating the skills of lifelong learning (Shorten, Wallace, & Crookes, 2001). Barnard, Nash, and O'Brien (2005) assert that information literacy is a necessity for university graduates, and that while such literacy has been considered part of information technology skills, it now has a broader context. Effective information literacy skills enable students to access, retrieve and evaluate reliable, reputable information that can then be applied to practice (Schulte, 2008). Saranto and Hovenga (2004) identify that innovations in hospital information systems and increasing use of electronic records and patient data collection have made information literacy skills highly relevant for health care professionals.

Recency of information that is evidence-based is also an essential factor in a dynamic field such as health. The ability to access information assists graduates to progress readily in their career as health professionals (Dorner, Taylor, & Hodson- Carlton, 2001). The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Council (2006, ANMC) competencies refer to the need for registered nurses to be able to incorporate research findings into their practice. This presupposes nurses will have the appropriate information literacy skills that enable them to do this, that is, that such skills will be developed during their undergraduate education

The literature suggests, however, that undergraduate nursing students are not confident in accessing and utilising electronic databases, and are more likely to utilise the Internet rather than specific health or health-related databases to locate information (Kirkwood, 2007). In an Australian survey Creedy et al. (2007) noted the reluctance among female nursing students to use information technology. Earlier studies by Verhey (1999) found low confidence levels among nursing students in relation to seeking information for assignments, with the most common barrier a lack of knowledge about using available resources. In a study of British nurses' use of computers, Russell and Alpay (2000) found that less than 5% had received any formal training in use of the Internet, with maintenance of medical records the primary use. Dee and Stanley (2005) UK study surveyed registered nurses and nursing students. While overall use of databases was higher among students than registered staff, the majority used the Internet, with Google and Yahoo as their primary sources. Pravikoff, Tanner, and Pierce (2005b) found that American nurses lacked an appreciation of research and the skills needed to locate quality evidence. These studies suggest that difficulties with information literacy are not confined to Australia, and that a need exists to help nursing students develop their skills beyond naive searches that do little to facilitate extension of their search and retrieval skills.

A number of such difficulties were evident among first year Bachelor of Nursing students enrolled at Charles Darwin University (CDU). …

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