On-duty critical care nurses’ barriers to information acquisition: implications for library services
Assistant Professor, Medical Library Association Board Member, Biomedical Library and Informatics Review Committee, National Library of Medicine - USA
Critical care nurses work in an environment rich in informative interactions. This study used participant observation and in-context interviews to describe and develop a grounded theory model of their typical informative behavior. The rich data was gathered from a representative sample of on-duty critical care nurses in a community hospital in the United States. Analysis of the 5,000 paragraphs of qualitative data demonstrated that the nurses sought patient specific, social, logistic and knowledge based information from people, the patient record and other digital systems. Barriers to information acquisition included illegible handwriting, difficult navigation of online systems, equipment failure, unavailable people, social protocols and mistakes caused by multi-tasking people working with multiple complex systems. A major barrier to acquisition of knowledge based information was the lack of time to read extensive documents. For instance, these computer literate nurses had online drug information systems and hard copy drug reference books easily accessible on the unit, yet they would call a pharmacist for drug information questions because they could not take time away from patient care to use these tools. Librarians providing services for practicing health care providers must be aware that just because an information source (hard copy or online) is accessible in the workplace, that does not mean that the health care providers have the time to read and evaluate complex articles while on duty. In addition, librarians must realize that even nurses with graduate degrees who thoroughly understand the process of Evidence Based Nursing do not have time for such information retrieval, analysis and use during a twelve-hour shift. Efficient provision of intermediary searching by a professional librarian may be more useful to on-duty practitioners than do-it-yourself searching.