Information-seeking behaviour of nurses: where is information sought and what processes are followed?

J Adv Nurs. 2012 Feb;68(2):379-90. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2011.05750.x. Epub 2011 Jun 24.


Aim: This paper is a report of a study on how nurses inform their decision-making in the workplace.

Background: Despite the growing availability of research evidence, nurses have been slow to adopt it into their daily decision-making.

Method: The study was undertaken in Ireland between 2006 and 2007 using a sequential mixed methods approach. In phase 1, the views of a quota sample of 29 nurses were explored using semi-structured interviews incorporating vignettes. Phase 2 involved the design and dissemination of a survey to a disproportionate stratified random sample of 1356 nurses. The response rate was 29%.

Findings: In decision-making, nurses accessed other people, especially nursing colleagues, the most frequently. Sources that provided prepackaged information such as guidelines were favoured over sources that provided access to original research. The process of information-seeking for routine and non-routine decisions was different. Nurses making routine decisions relied mostly on their experience and an assessment of the patient. In non-routine decision-making, participants experienced more uncertainty about their decisions. Accordingly, sources of information used were more varied and the information-seeking process more extensive. The study highlighted the complexities of establishing whether information used in decision-making is research based or not.

Conclusion: Routine practices should be reviewed and updated regularly through organizational mandates, as nurses do not generally question them. Research information to inform non-routine decision-making must be easily available to nurses in their workplace, as information searches generally prioritize finding enough, rather than the best, information to make a decision.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Clinical Competence / standards
  • Data Collection
  • Decision Making*
  • Evidence-Based Practice*
  • Female
  • Guideline Adherence
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Information Seeking Behavior*
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Ireland
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Nursing Staff / psychology
  • Nursing Staff / statistics & numerical data*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Qualitative Research
  • Uncertainty*