Information Literacy in Nursing

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  • 0:00 Information Literacy
  • 0:53 Two Important Tools
  • 2:24 The Information…
  • 5:17 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Patricia Jankowski

Patricia has a BSChE. She's an experienced registered nurse who has worked in various acute care areas as well as in legal nurse consulting.

We live in a complex age of information and misinformation. It is crucial that health care professionals, including nurses, be knowledgeable about how to obtain truly useful sources of information. This lesson is about information literacy in nursing.

Information Literacy

Nancy Nurse has just begun making her first rounds on a busy afternoon shift at Happy Horizons Hospital. She goes in to see her first patient, 75-year-old John Doe, who was admitted for shortness of breath. His wife is sitting next to him in a visitor's chair. She says to Nancy Nurse, ''John read on the Internet that coconut oil cures shortness of breath. He decided to try it, and ate a whole 14-ounce jar of it last night. He just didn't want to go through all this expensive testing!''

Nancy Nurse knows what tests to run for John's shortness of breath, but with the ingestion of coconut oil she isn't so sure about how to proceed. She asks the other nurses but no one else has seen a case like this before, so she decides to do some online research. But how does Nurse Nancy find the right answer among the millions of search results?

Two Important Tools

Nancy has two very important and useful tools to help her navigate online research and find answers to help her treat John Doe. They are evidence-based practice (EBP) and information literacy.

Evidence-based practice (EBP) is defined by Mosby's Medical Dictionary as ''The practice of health care in which the practitioner systematically finds, appraises, and uses the most current and valid research findings as the basis for clinical decisions.'' EBP is based on two principles: First, that the better the research findings, the more confidence the patient can have in the clinical decision; and secondly, that the patient's values and preferences also play a major role in the decision process. But in order to know what the most current and valid research findings actually are, the healthcare practitioner (in this case, the nurse) must have information literacy.

Information literacy is the ability to find and evaluate sources of information. Unlike computer literacy, which involves the technical aspects of how to use a computer, information literacy is careful evaluation of all information sources used. This may sound simple, but often, it is not. There are many sources of information, but not all of them are reliable or trustworthy. Learning to recognize which sources are truly worth using - especially for the purpose of making a clinical decision, which will affect someone's life - is a crucial skill for nurses and other healthcare professionals to develop.

Developing Information Literacy
computer keyboard

The Information Literacy Process

Nancy Nurse knows to use the following five steps of the information literacy process to help her proceed with her patient:

  1. Becoming aware of the need for information.
  2. Developing a searchable question or statement, then planning and implementing the search.
  3. Retrieving the needed information.
  4. Organizing, synthesizing, and evaluating the information.
  5. Applying the knowledge gained to patient care and evaluating results.

The first step in the process, becoming aware of the need for information, involves finding gaps in information. This usually involves having conversations with patients, families, and doctors, who are all involved in the clinical decision-making process. Nancy Nurse needs to know whether or not 14 ounces of coconut oil could have harmed John Doe, and what possible side effects it might have.

In this second step, the information search questions must be defined, and the search itself must be designed. Key words must be found for Internet searches, and reliable sources of information must be used for the search. Relevant questions for Nancy Nurse might be: ''could a large amount of coconut oil, such as 14 ounces, cause a shortness of breath or harm a patient?''; or, ''is coconut oil an evidence-based therapy for shortness of breath, or is it simply anecdotal?''

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