Improving the Skills of RN-BSN Students in Maximizing the Use of Data and Information for Evidence-Based Nursing: Nursing Information Behavior

Friday, 25 July 2014: 3:50 PM

Edmund J. Y. Pajarillo, PhD, RN-BC, CPHQ, NEA-BC
College of Nursing, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Newark, NJ
Alexei Oulanov, PhD, MBA, MLIS
Charles Evans Innis Memorial Library, Medgar Evars College, Brooklyn, NY


This present research explored the nursing information behavior (NIB) of RN-BSN students to understand how they access and use data and information, taking into consideration their status as nurses and students in pursuit of their baccalaureate education. The relevance of evidence-based nursing cannot be overemphasized with the heightened focus on healthcare quality and patient safety. This is evident in current reports and initiatives (IOM, 2010; AACN, 2008; IOM, 1999) articulating the basic and essential skills that nursing students and nurses must have to be able to perform nursing under the best circumstances. Nursing students and nurses should be able to integrate research and evidence-based practice, informatics concepts, and technology-mediated applications into nursing. A critical proficiency in achieving this expertise is for nurses and nursing students to have a strong and solid information behavior. Wilson (2010) defines information behavior as “distinct and broad … a collective and encompassing concept covering information seeking, information searching and information use. It entails behavior associated with active and passive information, including its conceptualization, formulation, use and application.” It is oftentimes associated with two relevant components, namely information needs and sources of information.

How nursing students and nurses identify, seek and use information is important to understand, more so if the students are registered nurses (RNs) pursuing their baccalaureate degrees in nursing. Components of the nursing information behavior (NIB) of RN students include their information needs, sources frequently accessed, barriers encountered, and the manner by which information is processed (Pajarillo, 2008). Understanding the NIB of RN students is a requisite step in evidence-based practice so that educators are more able to assist them on how to best access and use relevant information when faced with critical, patient-related information needs. Healthcare modalities and approaches related to nursing assessments and interventions have been significantly affected with advancements in medicine, health, nursing, and information technology. Nurses and nursing students need to be able to obtain and apply the most appropriate and current evidence and be able to integrate this into their professional practice. Knowing information sources that are reliable, as well as the appropriate steps and processes to obtain information will enhance nurses’ patient care skills, critical thinking proficiency, and evidence-based patient care.

Information behavior is likewise contingent on the user’s social structure and setting, so that motivations, processes, strategies and barriers consequently vary depending on the locale. A previous research was conducted to describe the nursing information behavior of home care nurses (Pajarillo, 2008), describing their information needs (drivers) and information leads and conduits (sources). This study described a framework of nursing information behavior that includes the information processes used by home care nurses in the contextual setting of their community work place. Findings of this research showed that the information behavior of home care nurses is attributed to the very nature of their job being set in the community. There was much reliance on the use of human sources of information, rather than the traditional hard copy manuals and textbooks, or those obtained electronically through the Internet or electronic databases.

An appreciation of the NIB of RN students should be able to provide educators, information specialists, and application developers insights into their specific information, education, and computer program needs to help enhance their professional functioning as nurses and maximize on their learning experiences. In the long run, these RN students will gain better knowledge and skills in information identification, access, processing and use for integration and application in their nursing practice and care of patients. 


A mixed-method approach was used in this research. RN students in two nursing programs, one in New York and another in New Jersey were requested to complete a survey of their frequently-identified information needs, sources used, and roadblocks experienced during the process. The framework devised by Pajarillo (2008) was used to describe their information behavior. Additionally, a small group of these RN students (4-5 in each nursing program) were recruited to participate in individual interviews and focus groups to describe their specific information needs identification, searching, processing, and use. The survey was conducted using Survey Monkey during the Fall 2013. Volunteers were recruited from the same cohort of survey respondents. 


Data triangulation that resulted from the survey, individual interviews, and focus groups revealed an interesting mix of information needs that were mostly patient care and nursing course-related. Information leads used by the RN students were of electronic and manual formats and from human sources. There were issues identified relating to difficulties accessing database sources, massive quantities of available information, and concerns relating to the authenticity of available information coming from web searches. Some themes identified from the individual interviews and focus groups include “the necessity to pursue the information search process is contingent on the scope and severity of the information need,” “need for information searching is a professional duty,” “human sources come handy when there is no time to waste,” and “the information search process is a complex but relevant task.” 


A follow-up study will be conducted using the findings from this exploratory study with a larger number of RN student-respondents, with the goal of identifying factors and elements that will likely influence improved information behavior that will also be incorporated into nursing curriculum.