• decision-making;
  • information use;
  • intensive care unit;
  • knowledge transfer;
  • naturalistic enquiry;
  • nursing

Aims and objectives

To explore the use of information by nurses making decisions in clinically uncertain situations in one aspect of critical care nursing practice (enteral feeding). In this paper, we report the characteristics, which participants identified as important, of the people from whom they sought information for the purpose of making clinical decisions.


Registered nurses have a plethora of information sources available to assist them in making clinical decisions. Identifying and selecting the best information to support these decisions can be difficult and is influenced by factors such as accessibility, usefulness and variations in quality of the information.


An instrumental case study design using multiple case study analysis.


Twenty-two critical care nurses from two intensive care units contributed to the data through multiple methods of data collection including concurrent verbal protocols (think aloud), retrospective probing and focus group interviews.


Nurses preferentially used colleagues as a source of information when faced with uncertainty about their clinical practice. Most participants placed greater emphasis on evaluating the individual providing the information rather than on evaluating the information itself. Key features used for identifying an individual as a source of information included experience, clinical role, trust and approachability.


Establishing clearly what clinical credibility means, and to what extent trustworthiness and expertise play a role in the establishment of credibility, is an important debate for nursing. We need to carefully consider what defines the construct of clinical credibility and how this aligns with the concept of clinical currency, to allow clinicians to determine in others the characteristics associated with clinical credibility to access quality information through social interaction.

Relevance to clinical practice

Processes to focus on determining the quality of information obtained from colleagues should be emphasised. What these processes are and how they could be implemented into clinical practice remains unknown and is highlighted as an area for future research.