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Keywords:

  • Internet;
  • workplace use;
  • information technology;
  • evidence-based care;
  • nursing

Background.  The potential of the Internet as a fast and efficient way of accessing evidence to support nursing practice has been well recognized. In addition, nurses have highlighted the need for training in the use of information technology, information retrieval and critical appraisal as essential to their professional development.

Aim.  The aim of this paper is to present selected results of a longitudinal project that evaluated the impact of networked computers, with open access to the Internet, on four acute wards in a large UK teaching hospital.

Method.  Evaluation methods in the project included monitoring data from an Internet surveillance software package, a questionnaire survey with the nurses (n = 97) and in-depth interviews with a sample of nurses (n = 12).

Findings.  A complex picture was revealed of the nature of Internet use and the factors that nurses perceived as influencing this. The majority used the networked computers and some frequent users emerged. Nurses were able to use the technology during quiet periods throughout the day and night. Patterns of use were mixed, with nurses accessing the Internet for a combination of work and non-work-related activities. They integrated use of Internet technology into their working days in ways that appropriately fitted patterns of clinical activity. Factors relating to the organization, workplace culture and training were identified influencing Internet use.

Conclusions.  Open access to the Internet in the workplace emerged as a useful but unrefined tool for encouraging the retrieval of information for practice. Future development of this technology in the workplace must include support and training for professional staff in order to enhance the skills required. Recommendations are made about what and how training may be useful in promoting nurses’ use of Internet technology in clinical settings.