Nurse practitioner and practice nurses' use of research information in clinical decision making: findings from an exploratory study

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Background. There is a lack of evidence regarding the kinds of decisions made by primary care nurses and the information sources they use in clinical decision making.

Objective. To describe the decisions made by nurses working in general practice and the sources of information they use to underpin those decisions.

Methods. Qualitative methods (interviews, observation, documentary analysis) were used to collect data on the clinical decision making and information seeking behaviour of a purposive sample of 29 practice nurses and four nurse practitioners from general practices in the North of England. Data were collected November 2001-September 2002.

Results. A seven-fold typology captured the types of decisions the nurses made on a daily basis concerning assessment, diagnosis, intervention, referral, communication, service delivery and organization (SDO) and information seeking. Faced with clinical uncertainty, the majority of the nurses in the study relied on personal experience, or obtained advice and information from GP or other colleagues. These 'human sources' of information were overwhelmingly preferred to text or on-line resources. Despite encounters with evidence-based resources through continuing professional development, the nurses rarely used them to seek answers to routine clinical questions.

Conclusion. The decisions of the nurses in the study were mainly concerned with undifferentiated diagnosis and treatment, in the context of acute conditions and chronic disease management. 'Human sources' of information were preferred to any other; however, we do not know whether information obtained from colleagues is based on research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)490-497
Number of pages8
JournalFamily Practice
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2005


  • decision making
  • information use
  • practice nurses

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