Nurses’ use of online health information in medical wards


J.A. Gilmour: e-mail:


gilmour j.a., huntington a., broadbent r., strong a. & hawkins m. (2012) Nurses’ use of online health information in medical wards. Journal of Advanced Nursing68(6), 1349–1358.


Aim.  This paper is a report of a study of nurses’ access, use and evaluation of online health information in medical wards.

Background.  Online health information is commonly used by patients with chronic illness to support their education needs. Nurses have a critical role in assisting patients to access and use this information.

Method.  This descriptive cross-sectional survey of a random sample of 540 nurses employed in medical wards was carried out in 2009. The response rate was 58·7% (293). The analytical approach included descriptive statistics and non-parametric tests of correlation and differences between groups. A content analysis was performed on the qualitative data.

Results.  Most respondents (78·6%) were satisfied with work Internet access and 58·2% believed that the use of online information improved care delivery. Nearly half the group was aware of patient misconceptions about their illness due to incorrect interpretations of online information, but only 24·4% checked if patients used online information. There was a significant association between assessing patients use and awareness of patient misconceptions.

Conclusion.  The findings of this study highlight that while online resources add to education opportunities, the ongoing nursing assessment required to determine online information needs is not always incorporated into nursing practice. Patient misunderstandings of online material were also identified; developing patient competency in evaluating open access health information should now be recognized as an integral aspect of illness management education.