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Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Key Messages
  8. References

Aims:  To find out about the nursing community's needs in the following areas: information or knowledge to improve practice in the clinical area; information to support lifelong learning and formal study.

Methods:  A questionnaire was circulated in summer 2004 containing questions on types of information source used for particular types of problem or question; specific sources used; ease of access to various information sources including computers and the Internet, and local health library; and workplace culture and environment.

Results:  A total of 1715 usable questionnaires were completed and returned. Significant numbers of the nursing community have currently no or limited access to computers. Nursing staff in the independent sector had less access to computers and the Internet than those working for the National Health Service (NHS). Workplace culture was as important as access to IT equipment.

Conclusions:  As a result of the survey, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is working with the NHS and the independent health sector to improve access and provide complementary services for the whole nursing community.


Introduction

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Key Messages
  8. References

In 2004, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) library and information services (LIS) carried out a survey into the information needs of nurses and other health professionals. The aim of the survey was to find out current information needs of all the nursing community, not only RCN members, so that we would have a good evidence base from which to develop the RCN library and information services and play an influencing role to improve nurses’ access to information.

Background and objectives

The Royal College of Nursing is the UK's foremost professional association and trade union for nurses, with nearly 400 000 members. RCN LIS has physical libraries in all four countries of the UK, but increasingly offers more and more of its services electronically. The vision of its 1999 information strategy was to create access to information wherever and whenever needed, offering equity of service across the UK. Since 1999 there have been many changes in nurses’ access to information with more information available electronically, more information available from other organizations and, most crucially of all, more nurses having access to the Internet.

In 2004, we decided therefore to revisit the strategy for meeting members’ local information needs. As the first step in this process, we decided to carry out a UK-wide survey into the information needs of nurses, midwives, health visitors and health care assistants.

The aims of the survey were to find out about the nursing community's needs in the following areas:

  • • 
    information or knowledge to improve practice in the clinical area;
  • • 
    information to support lifelong learning and formal study.

The findings of the survey are written up in more detail in two reports, one full1 and one summary.2 A shorter article in Library and Information Research gives an abridged account of the survey.3

Literature review

Access to the Internet.  A study carried out in Canada in 1998 showed that nurses lagged behind other groups in terms of workplace Internet access and use, and that only a very small proportion of them (1%) reported using the Internet at work for more than 1 hour per week for practice information.4 The authors attribute this largely to the fact that, in many work environments, time taken to access the Internet may be regarded as ‘non-productive’.

Duffy5 echoes the view that many managers and employers in the health care sector may regard the Internet as a time waster. Such employers may discourage Internet use explicitly by blocking wide access across the organization or, more often, by not fostering a supportive environment in which people feel they can use the Internet freely.5

Use of information resources

Thompson et al.6 found that immediate colleagues were perceived as more accessible as a source of information for clinical problem solving than any form of evidence-based technology, and human information sources were overwhelmingly classed as most useful in clinical decision-making.7

This echoes the findings of a study of nurse practitioners in North Carolina, USA in 1998, where respondents were asked to indicate the weekly frequency of their information needs as a result of patient encounters and their relative use of a range of information resources. They used supervisors for information around diagnosis and peers (other nurse practitioners) for psychosocial issues, with doctors and drug reference manuals as the two most consulted sources.8

The nurses in a small-scale UK study of the information needs of theatre staff differentiated their needs from those of doctors and saw nursing information as patient- or care-centred and holistic, in contrast to the medical or scientific information required by doctors. They also wanted it in a form suitable for imparting directly to patients.9

Attitudes to evidence-based practice

An early qualitative study of Canadian nurses in a medical/haematology unit found that there was little opportunity or encouragement for nurses to use research material on the job, and that the workload measurement system did not include information seeking as a nursing task. Nurses read research literature and visited the local health library in conjunction with educational courses, but not to solve work-related problems. It called for educators, managers and nurses to ‘co-operate in creating a workplace in which knowledge-based practice is a realistic option’.10

Many of the nurses in a study of community nurses in the Western Isles of Scotland, UK felt they lacked the time to search for information and did not view it as an essential part of their job. The authors felt that creating an awareness that access to information is relevant and important was possibly more important than simply improving access and wanted nurses ‘to become “engaged” in the information-seeking process to the extent that consulting information sources becomes part of their work routine’.11

It appears from the literature that nurses are less advanced in their understanding of evidence-based practice than doctors. For example, in a recent study of 3000 US nurses, nearly half were unfamiliar with the term ‘evidence-based practice’.12 This is in stark contrast to an earlier study of 1000 family physicians in Ontario which found that 95% of respondents felt evidence-based medicine (EBM) principles were important to the practice of medicine.13

Methods

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Key Messages
  8. References

We developed a questionnaire in collaboration with RCN colleagues from across the UK, health librarians and an independent statistician. We asked about types of information sources used for particular types of problem or question; specific sources used; ease of access to various information sources including computers and the Internet, and the local health library if they had one; and workplace culture and environment. Questions were phrased in a variety of formats including tick boxes and open responses.

We decided to use a hard-copy questionnaire to ensure that we reached the whole target audience, not just those health care professionals with good access to information technology and the skills and confidence to use it. Thus, no one was excluded as a result of lack of confidence using information technology (IT)—a major problem with online surveys.

The survey contained 42 questions, although as many of these contained several statements requiring a response, in total there were nearly 300 variables to code for each questionnaire. Given the length of the questionnaire, we felt that merely posting the survey out at random to members would be unlikely to yield a high response rate. We therefore decided to use ‘local champions’ to distribute questionnaires in their workplaces, encourage colleagues to complete them and who would then be responsible for returning them. These local champions, 129 in all, consisted of RCN activists and health librarians. Local champions were encouraged to reach as wide a cross-section of their workforce as possible—registered nurses, midwives, health visitors and health care assistants—and to include colleagues who were not RCN members.

Questionnaires were also posted to a random selection of RCN forum members, and to individual RCN members responding to publicity on the website or using any of the four physical libraries. Sectors which would be difficult to reach via local champions, such as primary care, the independent sector, and nursing staff in care homes, were reached via direct mailing or at RCN events.

Questionnaires had the RCN region of the respondent printed on them, and the code of the local champion where applicable. They were otherwise anonymous. The questionnaires were distributed between 1 June 2004 and 16 July 2004. Freepost envelopes were enclosed to encourage a higher response rate.

In total, 7862 questionnaires were distributed and 1715 usable questionnaires completed and returned, a response rate of 22%. Fifty-five questionnaires were returned blank and 19 only partially completed—these were excluded from the analysis. The forms were coded and entered into an SPSS database (SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL, USA), then analysed with the help of an independent statistician. A full copy of the questionnaire is available from the authors.

Limitations of methodology

The sample of health care professionals we used was self-selecting, and it is likely that only members of the nursing community for whom information is an issue would take the trouble to complete a 30-minute questionnaire. As the questionnaire involves self reporting, the data we gathered are based on respondents’ perceptions, which are subjective and may not always be completely accurate. There is also the possibility of respondents mis-interpreting questions, especially in areas with which they are not familiar, such as the Internet. To minimize this problem, we were careful to include examples, especially around electronic resources.

Results

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Key Messages
  8. References

Profile of respondents

The survey reached a good cross-section of the target audience, making comparisons across regions and UK countries possible. A key variable was work sector. The largest group, 43.5% of the sample, worked in NHS hospitals (where this report cites ‘NHS’, this has also been used to mean the NHS equivalents in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). However, there was also good representation from other sectors: 20% worked in NHS community/general practice; 9% in NHS ‘other’ (including NHS care homes and hospices); and 15% in the independent sector (Table 1). (It is hard to determine how representative our sample is of the nursing community as a whole. It seems that, in September 2004, around 69% of qualified nurses worked in the NHS,14 but this does not differentiate between hospitals and the community. It is difficult to get exact figures for the independent sector as the information comes from disparate sources, uses a variety of definitions and is prone to double counting.)

Table 1.  Respondents by work sector
Sector of workFrequencyPer cent
NHS hospital73843.5%
NHS community34120.1%
NHS ‘other’1589.4%
Independent hospital51 3%
Independent care home/hospice17610.4%
Independent sector ‘other’251.5%
Academic663.9%
School120.7
Bank/agency51 3%
Work in more than one sector including National Health Service (NHS)472.8%
Armed forces20.1%
Regulation and Inspection50.3%
Prison (state)140.8%
Overseas90.5%
Missing20 

There were also responses from all the job grades. Eighty per cent of our respondents were registered nurses, 6% health care assistants, 2% health visitors, 3% midwives, 6% students and 3.5% other (a mix of managers and academics). Sixteen per cent of respondents always worked night shifts and another 20% sometimes worked night shifts.

Five per cent of qualified respondents had received their training outside of the UK, and just over 3% had moved to the UK within the last 2 years. (It is worth noting here that an RCN report from 2003 found that, in England, around 1 in 12 nurses on the NMC Register had been recruited from overseas.)15

Five per cent said that English was not their first language. Just 2.4% (39 respondents) reported that they had a disability that they considered affected their ability to search for and find information. Seventy-seven per cent of respondents said they were members of the RCN, 23% said they were not, figures which roughly represents the overall picture for the nursing community as a whole.

General access to information

Access to a computer and the Internet.  Fifteen per cent of respondents reported having no access to a computer at work, rising to 38% in the independent sector (Table 2).

Table 2.  Do not have access to computer at work
 FrequencyPer cent
All respondents24014.7
NHS hospital 7410.4
NHS community 18 5.5
Independent sector 9437.9

Of those respondents who did have access to a computer at work, on average (mean = 6.2; median = 3), respondents had to share a computer with six other people (if people stated 20–30 or 10–15, etc., the midpoint of the two figures given was used; e.g. for 10–15, the midpoint was 12.5, this was rounded up and 13 was entered into the SPSS database).

Nineteen per cent of respondents overall reported never using the Internet at work in relation to their work, compared with 14.5% from NHS hospitals, and a significantly higher figure of 45.4% from the independent sector (Table 3). It is worth noting here that in May 2005 another RCN survey found that only 9% of respondents reported never using the Internet at work.16 However, as this was an online survey, it is not surprising that Internet use would be higher among this group.

Table 3.  Frequency of use of Internet at work in relation to work
  DailyWeeklyMonthlyOccasionallyNever
All respondentsFrequency474445103305309
%28.927.16.318.618.8
NHS hospitalFrequency18620959149103
%26.329.58.32114.5
NHS communityFrequency96111215648
%28.232.66.216.414.1
Independent sectorFrequency4531842106
%19.313.33.41845.5

Forty-nine per cent of respondents reported always having access to the Internet at work when they needed it, 20% usually and 14% sometimes. Seventeen per cent of all respondents said they could never get access to the Internet at work when they needed it. Again the independent sector had less access (Table 4).

Table 4.  Access to the Internet at work when needed
  AlwaysUsuallySometimesNever
All respondentsFrequency792327234272
%48.620.114.416.7
NHS hospitalFrequency34416110388
%49.423.114.812.6
NHS communityFrequency179784529
%54.123.613.68.8
Independent sectorFrequency682437103
%29.110.315.844

Access to a local health library (e.g. NHS hospital or university)

Respondents were given a series of statements about their use of and access to local health libraries. Table 5 shows those who strongly agree or agree with these statements broken down by sector. Note that only those who had access to a local health library were asked to complete the section: 228 (13%) of respondents did not and were not included in the analyses of this section. Only 17.4% of respondents from the independent sector reported using the local health library regularly and 17.3% found it easy to access, compared with respondents from NHS hospitals, where the respective figures are 48.7% and 59.5%.

Table 5.  Use of local health library
  AllNHS hospitalsNHS communityIndependent sector
Use regularlyFrequency68333712838
%42.748.739.817.4
Easy to access when I need itFrequency72739611636
%47.559.537.817.3
Open at convenient timesFrequency82843014857
%53.464.247.726.3

There were marked regional differences in response to the statement ‘the health library is easy to access when I need it’ (χ2 = 67.0, d.f. = 48, P < 0.00). Respondents in the south-west were least likely to strongly agree or agree that the health library was easy to access when they needed it (41%). They were also the most likely to strongly disagree or disagree with the statement (37.5%). The regions where respondents were most likely to agree that the library was easy to access were Wales and Yorkshire and Humber.

Use of information

Respondents were asked a series of questions about how and where they got access to various information sources (Table 6).

Table 6.  Where respondents access different information sources (percentages)
 At my local health libraryVia the Internet at workAt local Royal College of Nursing (RCN) resource centreAt an RCN libraryVia Internet at home
Books61.215.14.48.420.9
Journal articles or reports42.640.55.87.548.7
Electronic databases, e.g. cinahl, medline22.741.72.33.040.5
Websites on the Internet13.547.61.92.661.0
RCN library and information service 6.520.26.57.723.2
Other RCN resources 5.717.15.95.219.5
Own organization's publications18.232.41.31.2 8.6

The most popular place to obtain books was the respondent's local health library. Journal articles were obtained from the local health library and from the Internet at both home and work. The most usual place to access electronic databases was via the Internet both at home and at work.

The RCN's library and information services were most commonly accessed via the Internet at both home and work, as were other RCN resources.

Respondents were asked how far they were prepared to travel to access information for a variety of purposes (Table 7). Whereas 11.1% of respondents stated they were not prepared to leave the workplace at all to find ‘how to do’ type information, only 5.9% of respondents reported being unwilling to leave the workplace to find information for a formal course. Similarly a higher proportion of respondents (67.2%) were prepared to travel for 30 minutes and over to access information for lifelong learning, as compared with 49.6% who would travel for 30 minutes and over to access ‘how to do’ type information.

Table 7.  How far respondents will travel to access information (percentages)
 Won't leave workplaceLess than 5 minUp to 15 minUp to 30 minUp to 1 hMore than 1 h
Information for formal course 5.9 5.720.833.221.612.4
To keep up to date with nursing news generally14.515.325.727 9.8 7.4
To keep up to date with latest information for your field of nursing11.610.423.62812.513.3
‘How to do’ type information11.111.127.529.612.7 7.3
Evidence for nursing practice 8 824.332.417 9.8

Improvements in information services

Respondents were offered a menu of different information services and asked to specify their frequency of use. Below are the most popular services, based on percentages of respondents who used/would use the service daily or weekly:

  • • 
    list of useful websites for field of practice (41%);
  • • 
    ability to e-mail an expert with a question (23%);
  • • 
    critical appraisal of new research (21%);
  • • 
    e-mail newsletter summarizing news in field of practice (21%);
  • • 
    part of the RCN website dedicated to field of practice (20%);
  • • 
    regular guidance on how new research could change nursing practice (20%).

Respondents were also given a blank box in which to write what they thought would most improve information services for them, and 1036 respondents opted to do this. The top five choices were as follows:

  • • 
    better access to computers and the Internet (31%);
  • • 
    better training on where and how to find information (25%);
  • • 
    dedicated/protected time to study—or just ‘more time’ to study (15%);
  • • 
    better access to more full-text journals—at no extra cost (10%);
  • • 
    list of useful websites for specialist area (10%).

Information or knowledge to improve practice in the clinical area

Attitudes to evidence-based practice.  We asked a whole range of questions to probe attitudes to evidence-based practice. We found a strong link between the level of encouragement respondents are given by their organizations for this type of information seeking and employees’ perceptions of whether or not they have time for information-seeking activities, such as reading journal articles or reports, or visiting the local health library (Tables 8 and 9).

Table 8.  ‘Time to read journal articles’ and ‘encouraged to search for evidence during working hours’
   No time to read journal articles and reportsTotal
AlwaysUsuallySometimesNeverDon't know
  1. χ2 = 37.6, d.f. = 8, P < 0.00.

Encouraged to search for evidence to support nursing practice during working hoursAlwaysFrequency8303501543545
%1.5%5.5%64.2%28.3%0.6%100.0%
SometimesFrequency946316624437
%2.1%10.5%72.3%14.2%0.9%100.0%
NeverFrequency920175503257
%3.5%7.8%68.1%19.5%1.2%100.0%
Total Frequency2696841266101239
%2.1%7.7%67.9%21.5%0.8%100.0%
Table 9.  ‘Time to visit the health library’ and ‘encouraged to search for evidence during working hours’
   Do not have time to visit the health libraryTotal
Strongly agreeAgreeNo opinionDisagreeStrongly disagree
  1. χ2 = 54.2, d.f. = 8, P < 0.00.

Encouraged to search for evidence to support nursing practice during working hoursAlwaysFrequency381367323632515
%7.4%26.4%14.2%45.8%6.2%100.0%
SometimesFrequency41148611468404
%10.1%36.6%15.1%36.1%2.0%100.0%
NeverFrequency418830609228
%18.0%38.6%13.2%26.3%3.9%100.0%
Total Frequency120372164442491147
%10.5%32.4%14.3%38.5%4.3%100.0%

We also found that this relationship extended to respondents’ perceptions on ease of use of various information sources, including journal articles and reports and the local health library (Tables 10 and 11).

Table 10.  ‘Encouraged to search for evidence to support nursing practice during working hours’ and ‘it is easy to identify which journal articles/reports are most relevant’
   Encouraged to search for evidence to support nursing practice during working hoursTotal
AlwaysSometimesNever
  1. χ2 = 55.0, d.f. = 8, P < 0.00.

Easy to identify which journal articles/reports are most relevantAlwaysFrequency722515112
%64.3%22.3%13.4%100.0%
UsuallyFrequency369261120750
%49.2%34.8%16.0%100.0%
SometimesFrequency198197137532
%37.2%37.0%25.8%100.0%
NeverFrequency9111434
%26.5%32.4%41.2%100.0%
Don't knowFrequency36413
%23.1%46.2%30.8%100.0%
Total Frequency6515002901441
%45.2%34.7%20.1%100.0%
Table 11.  ‘The health library is easy to access’ and ‘it is acceptable to leave the workplace to search for evidence to support practice’
   Health library is easy to access when neededTotal
Strongl agreeAgreeNo opinionDisagreeStrongly disagree
  1. χ2 = 102.0, d.f. = 8, P < 0.00.

Acceptable to leave workplace to search for evidence to support practiceAlwaysFrequency708939246228
%30.7%39.0%17.1%10.5%2.6%100.0%
SometimesFrequency552441029333527
%10.4%46.3%19.4%17.6%6.3%100.0%
NeverFrequency28108838734340
%8.2%31.8%24.4%25.6%10.0%100.0%
Total Frequency153441224204 731095
%14.0%40.3%20.5%18.6%  6.7%100.0%

There was also evidence of a relationship between employer attitudes to evidence-based practice and respondents’ ability to access electronic resources at work (Table 12).

Table 12.  ‘Encouraged to search for evidence to support nursing practice during working hours’ and ‘access electronic databases via Internet at work’
  Encouraged to search for evidence to support nursing practice during working hoursTotal
AlwaysSometimesNever
  1. χ2 = 87.4, d.f. = 2, P < 0.00.

Don't access electronic databases via Internet at workFrequency293310224827
%35.4%37.5%27.1%100.0%
Access electronic databases via Internet at workFrequency38422475683
%56.2%32.8%11.0%100.0%
TotalFrequency6775342991510
%44.8%35.4%19.8%100.0%

Information sources to improve practice in the clinical area

Respondents were also asked about their use of sources for different types of information need (Table 13). Not surprisingly, nursing colleagues, both peers and supervisors, are cited as being useful for finding ‘how to do’ type information, echoing the findings of Thompson et al.6 and Codghill.8

Table 13.  Information sources respondents find ‘very useful’ (percentages)
SourceFor finding out ‘how to do something’For completing an assignment when on a formal course of study
Books3857.4
Journal articles or reports65.279.3
Documents or publications from own organization45.234.9
Royal College of Nursing (RCN) library and information service21.729.5
Other RCN resource, e.g. RCN direct, RCN website, RCN publications32.633.8
Electronic database, e.g. medline, cinahl40.451.9
Websites on the Internet (not RCN)44.552.2
Local health library, e.g. Trust library, university library, postgraduate medical centre34.147
Nursing colleague (peer)43.823.5
Nursing colleague (supervisor or manager)40.221
Other medical/health professional—doctors, consultants, general practitionsers, surgeon24.7 7.5

Information needed to support lifelong learning and formal courses of study

Access to the Internet and time to study.  In addition to gauging respondents’ general access to the Internet, we were particularly interested in knowing whether Internet access coincided with when people actually had time to study. When asked if they could get access to the Internet when they have time to study, 42% said ‘always’, 30% said ‘usually’, 19% said ‘sometimes’ and only 7% said ‘never’. For those who work in the independent sector, 13% could never get access to the Internet when they had time to study.

Again, there was a strong link between employer attitudes and employees’ perceptions of their access to information. Tables 14 and 15 show some of the strong relationships we found between employer attitudes to evidence-based practice and employees’ access to the Internet when they have time to study.

Table 14.  ‘When I have time to study I can get access to the Internet’ and ‘it is acceptable to leave the workplace to search for evidence to support practice’
   When I have time to study I can get access to the InternetTotal
AlwaysUsuallySometimesNever
  1. χ2 = 109.8, d.f. = 6, P < 0.00.

Acceptable to leave workplace to search for evidence to support practiceAlwaysFrequency16371184256
%63.7%27.7%7.0%1.6%100.0%
SometimesFrequency25020811929606
%41.3%34.3%19.6%4.8%100.0%
NeverFrequency13611111452413
%32.9%26.9%27.6%12.6%100.0%
Total Count549390251851275
%43.1%30.6%19.7%6.7%100.0%
Table 15.  ‘When I have time to study I can get access to the internet’ and ‘there is a process at work where I can have input into changing nursing practice’
   When I have time to study I can get access to the internetTotal
AlwaysUsuallySometimesNever
  1. χ2 = 106.9, d.f. = 6, P < 0.00.

There is a process at work where I can have input into changing nursing practiceAlwaysFrequency2571334915454
%56.6%29.3%10.8%3.3%100.0%
SometimesFrequency24521314246646
%37.9%33.0%22.0%7.1%100.0%
NeverFrequency45365329163
%27.6%22.1%32.5%17.8%100.0%
Total Frequency547382244901263
%43.3%30.2%19.3%7.1%100.0%

Nurses who never have access to the Internet when they have time to study are less likely to report that it is acceptable for them to leave the workplace when searching for evidence to support practice, and that there is a process at work which allows them to have input into changing practice.

Hours of study and employer attitudes

There is also a link between employer attitudes to evidence-based practice and the amount of hours respondents are prepared to spend on studying and lifelong learning. For example, being encouraged to search for evidence increases the number of hours that nurses study during working hours (Table 16).

Table 16.  Hours of study at work and ‘encouraged to search for evidence at work’
   Hours of study at workTotal
01–1011–4040 +
  1. χ2 = 51.1, d.f. = 6, P < 0.00.

Encouraged to search for evidence to support nursing practice during working hoursAlwaysFrequency3533310212482
%7.3%69.1%21.2%2.5%100.0%
SometimesFrequency59228716364
%16.2%62.6%19.5%1.6%100.0%
NeverFrequency59118313211
%28.0%55.9%14.7%1.4%100.0%
Total Frequency153679204211057
%14.5%64.2%19.3%2.0%100.0%

Information sources to support lifelong learning and formal courses of study

The most useful sources for completing an assignment when on a formal course of study were journal articles and reports, followed by books, then websites and electronic databases (Table 13). A higher percentage of respondents (57.4%) report finding books useful for completing an assignment, compared with only 38% finding books useful for ‘how to do’ type information.

Discussion

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Key Messages
  8. References

Summary of findings

The issues around nurses’ workplace access to computers and the Internet identified by Estabrooks et al.4 and Duffy5 still have resonance. A significant number of respondents still have limited or no access to a computer and the Internet at work, especially in the independent sector. It is worth noting here that the bulk of our independent sector respondents (70%) came from independent care homes or hospices; around half of them reported having no access to a computer at work and over half (56%) never having access to the Internet at work. These organizations are either profit making or in the voluntary sector, and as such are likely to be unwilling or unable to provide more than the bare minimum in terms of IT.

There is very high demand for value-added information services that help nurses find good quality, up-to-date, relevant evidence in manageable amounts. Respondents want a blended service—physical and electronic libraries, librarians as well as online services—a finding which was echoed in our LIBQUAL survey of 2006.17

Cultural issues appear to affect nurses’ ability to access evidence and the support of employers is shown to be crucial. Nursing staff whose employers have positive attitudes towards using evidence to change their practice appear to have better access to a whole range of resources, including the Internet and the local health library. They are more likely to report having time for information-seeking activities and the skills to use a variety of electronic resources. This seems to add weight to the view of Farmer et al. that creating an awareness of the importance and relevance of access to information is possibly more important than simply improving access.11

Conclusion

We are using the evidence from the survey to inform our future direction around the following strategic objectives: improving basic to advanced information skills; tailoring information provision; acquiring and delivering relevant resources; influencing the e-health policy agenda; developing effective knowledge management systems. We have also carried out a restructuring of our services into a new Information and Knowledge Management department.

Many health librarians in the UK are already using this evidence to improve information services for nursing staff; for example, to recruit extra library staff. RCN and other health librarians have an influencing role to play in continuing to improve nursing colleagues’ access to information and to influence employers in this area. Cultural attitudes have as much impact on nurses’ access to information as physical access to IT. This is more difficult to resolve. The RCN needs to work with the NHS and the independent health sector to improve access and provide complementary services for the whole nursing community, and that should lead to better patient care.

Key Messages

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Key Messages
  8. References

Implications for Policy

  • • 
    Significant numbers of the nursing community have no or limited access to information technology (IT) and the Internet.
  • • 
    Nurses in the independent sector have less access to information.
  • • 
    Employers’ attitudes are crucial and have as big an impact on nurses’ information-seeking habits as physical access to IT.
  • • 
    Librarians and information professionals have an influencing role to play in ensuring that nurses have access to appropriate information.

Implications for Practice

  • • 
    Librarians and information professionals need to provide up-to-date good quality relevant evidence for busy nurses in manageable amounts.
  • • 
    Nurses require a blended service, with physical resources and support from people, as well as online information.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Key Messages
  8. References