Barriers and Benefits Associated with Nurses Information Seeking Related to Patient Education Needs on Clinical Nursing Units

Josette Jones*, Katherine Schilling, Daniel Pesut
Indiana University School of Informatics – 535 West Michigan Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202, USA

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© Jones et al.; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Indiana University School of Informatics – 535 West Michigan Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202, USA; Tel: (317) 274-8059; Fax: (317) 278-7669; E-mail:


The purpose of this study was to answer the following two questions: What are clinical nurses’ rationales for their approaches to finding patient educational materials on the web? What are perceived barriers and benefits associated with the use of web-based information resources for patient education in the context of nursing clinical practice?

Over 179 individual data units were analyzed to understand clinical nurses’ rationales for their approaches to find patient educational materials on the web. Rationales were defined as those underlying catalysts or activators leading to an information need. Analyses found that the primary reasons why clinical nurses conducted web-based information searches included direct patient requests ( 9 requests), colleague requests (6 requests), building patient materials collections (4), patients’ family requests (3), routine teaching (1), personal development (1), or staff development (1). From these data, four broad themes emerged: professional reasons, personal reasons, technology reasons, and organization reasons for selecting information resources. Content analysis identified 306 individual data units representing either ‘benefits’ (178 units) or ‘barriers’ (128) to the nurses’ use of web resources for on-unit patient care. Inter-rater reliability was assessed and found to be excellent (r = 0.943 to 0.961). The primary themes that emerged as barriers to the used of web-based resources included: 1) time requirements to perform a search, 2) nurses’ experience and knowledge about the resources or required technology, 3) specific characteristics of individuals electronic information resources, and 4) organizational procedures and policies. Three primary themes that represented the benefits of using web-based resources were also identified: 1) past experiences and knowledge of a specific resource or the required technologies, 2) availability and accessibility on the unit, and 3) specific characteristics of individual information tool. In many cases, nurses commented on specific characteristics or features of favorite information resources. Favorite sites included a variety or reputable health care organizations that displayed context in text, audio, and/or video. In addition such sites were described as easy-to read and provided content related to patient-focused information or specific content such as toll free telephone contact numbers.

Information searching is the interaction between and among information users and computer-based information systems. Information seeking is becoming an important part of the knowledge work of nurses. Information seeking and searching intersects with the field of human computer interaction (HCI), which focuses on all aspects of human, and computer interactions. Users of an information system are understood as “actors” in situations, with a set of skills and shared practices based on work experiences with others. Designing better tools and developing information searching strategies that support, extend, and transform practices, begins by asking: Who are the users? What are the tasks? What is the interplay between the technology and the organization of the task? This study contributes fundamental data and information about the rationales nurses use in information seeking tasks. In addition it provides empirical evidences regarding barriers and benefits of information seeking in the context of patient education needs in inpatient clinical settings.

Keywords: Health information systems, nurses’ information seeking, searching web-based knowledge resources, patient education.