Academic journal article Journal of the Medical Library Association

Information-Seeking Behavior of Nursing Students and Clinical Nurses: Implications for Health Sciences Librarians*

Academic journal article Journal of the Medical Library Association

Information-Seeking Behavior of Nursing Students and Clinical Nurses: Implications for Health Sciences Librarians*

Article excerpt

Objectives: This research was conducted to provide new insights on clinical nurses' and nursing students' current use of health resources and libraries and deterrents to their retrieval of electronic clinical information, exploring implications from these findings for health sciences librarians.

Methods: Questionnaires, interviews, and observations were used to collect data from twenty-five nursing students and twenty-five clinical nurses.

Results: Nursing students and clinical nurses were most likely to rely on colleagues and books for medical information, while other resources they frequently cited included personal digital assistants, electronic journals and books, and drug representatives. Significantly more nursing students than clinical nurses used online databases, including CINAHL and PubMed, to locate health information, and nursing students were more likely than clinical nurses to report performing a database search at least one to five times a week.

Conclusions and Recommendations: Nursing students made more use of all available resources and were better trained than clinical nurses, but both groups lacked database-searching skills. Participants were eager for more patient care information, more database training, and better computer skills; therefore, health sciences librarians have the opportunity to meet the nurses' information needs and improve nurses' clinical information-seeking behavior.


Nursing professionals need a wide variety of health information to meet their clinical and educational needs. Due to time constraints, many health care professionals prefer to obtain information from resources that are convenient, easy to use, and reliable [1, 2]. Professional superiors, colleagues, and other health care providers, especially physicians, are favorite resources for nursing information [3, 4]. Print materials are another group of preferred resources of information, including nursing textbooks [4-7] and journals [8]. Other reports, however, indicate an underutilization of the available nursing literature with a reduction in textbook use [9] and minimal reliance on print journals [10].

Research reported in the mid-1990s found that electronic sources of information, CINAHL and MEDLINE, for example, were increasing in popularity, but usage reports differed from study to study [9, 11, 12]. The literature further reported that database searching as a source of nursing information was underutilized and listed several factors that impeded nurses' successful information gathering, including lack of access to a computer [13] and lack of time to search large volumes of health literature [9]. Some nurses were reluctant to utilize digital information resources [1] and exhibited a lack of knowledge about computers [14, 15]. As a result, not all information needs were pursued [7]. Another study found that database searching was a critical skill for new nurses [16]; however, nurses might not have the necessary skills to pursue their information needs [1], because their insufficient training precluded addressing those information needs adequately [13]. Research also showed, however, that, with training, individuals did use more online health information resources and that the use of online databases also increased with training [13, 17].

Several studies have reported that libraries were widely used resources for health information by students and health professionals [9, 11, 12]. However, other studies have shown that many health professionals were reluctant to use libraries, or they did not have access [1, 2, 18]. The literature demonstrated that health sciences librarians provide valuable services to assist nurses with information retrieval. University librarians offer mediated computer search services [19], and some medical school librarians also offer live digital reference service [20-24].

This study reports on the information resources that were used for patient care by clinical nurses and nursing students, the frequency that the resources were used, the reasons that resources were not used, and the participants' use of the library. …

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