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Keywords:

  • evidence-based practice;
  • information technology in health;
  • information-seeking;
  • nursing roles;
  • organisational culture

Background.  The ‘information explosion’ presents a significant challenge to the nursing profession. One way to assist access to information is to provide electronic information resources at the point of care. A large-scale survey of nurses working in the public health system in New South Wales, Australia, was undertaken as part of a 2-year evaluation of the Clinical Information Access Program (CIAP). This is a website which provides 24 hour, online access to a range of evidence sources at the point of care.

Aim.  This paper reports a study to investigate factors influencing nurses’ use of online evidence available at the point of care and to examine differences between nurses in different roles.

Method.  Nurses from 65 randomly selected hospitals were surveyed. A convenience sample representing 25% of nursing staff at these hospitals was sought. Eighty-four per cent of the survey quota was met and 3128 questionnaires were completed and returned.

Results.  The results showed that 58% of nurses had heard of the CIAP and, of those, 70% had used the website's resources. Senior nurses had greater awareness and use than others. The most frequent reasons for use were to fill a knowledge gap and for personal education. Lack of training was the most frequently cited reason for not using the website. Use of online evidence, particularly amongst senior staff, was higher than reported in previous studies.

Conclusion.  Use of online evidence was associated with nursing role, and with managerial and organizational support. Diffusion of innovation theory can help to explain some of the patterns observed. The use and impact of online evidence should be interpreted in the context of nursing practice and culture.