Information Retrieval – Swedish Specialist Student Nurses` Strategies for Finding Clinical Evidence

Cathrin Madsen-Rihlert, Kerstin Nilsson, Margareta Warrèn Stomber*
Sahlgrenska Academy at University of Gothenburg, Institute of Health and Care Sciences, P.O. Box 457, SE 405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden

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© Madsen-Rihlert 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 Sahlgrenska Academy at University of Gothenburg, Institute of Health and Care Sciences, P.O. Box 457, SE 405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden; Tel: + 46 31 7866026; E-mail:


The care that intra-operative nurses perform has to be based on scientific knowledge. It is therefore vitally important that they have access to different databases and the Internet, as well as knowledge of the search procedure to find evidence for best practice. This means that specialist nurses should be proficient in the search procedure, interpretation of data, and implementation of available knowledge.

The aim of this study was therefore to highlight the search strategies of specialist student nurses for finding scientific knowledge with regard to specific clinical issues. An additional aim was to assess their ability to critically evaluate scientific articles.


The participants, n 16, all students enrolled in a university programme for specialist nursing in anaesthesia care, were required to find support for six questions, by using scientific knowledge databases. The tasks that required support are related to their future profession and were divided into three main areas: pre-, intra-, and post-operative care. Two distinct questions for each main area had to be answered. The data was analysed quantitatively using manifest content analysis as a basis.


This study reveals that the student nurses mostly used the CINAHL and PubMed databases to search for answers related to the areas in focus. The keywords the participants used differed between the individuals and were applied more frequently than MESH terms. In addition, the critical evaluation of articles of scientific value that were found was not optimal. The study demonstrated that most of the participants were unable to complete all the required tasks. With regard to the initial questions, all 16 participants provided answers, while only eight student nurses completed the final questions.


The specialist student nurses in this study used the databases Chinal and PubMed to find scientific knowledge with the help of MESH-terms and keywords. Further research is needed to understand how education of the specialist student nurses should be carried out, in order to optimise their search strategies and critical evaluation of scientific articles.

Keywords: Information retrieval, search strategies, nurses.