Sunday, 3 July 2011

Informing Our Practice: Art or Technology?

In 2005 the RCN published a research report on the information needs of Nurses. It made very sober reading and reflected a world within a world where access to information to underpin evidence-based practice seemed limited and unachievable. The usual suspects were to blame; employers not allowing staff time to find information, access to computers and the internet was said to be limited. A significant number of the respondents (15%) claimed to have no access to a computer at work. The recommendations were also interesting – provision of more information skills training, the provision of value-added information services which help nurses find good quality, up to date, relevant evidence in manageable amounts, and greater access to physical and electronic libraries, librarians and other online services.

Reading the report now it seems an astonishing tale and one that is difficult to understand. Back in 2005 a survey, conducted for the BBC World Service by Canadian pollsters GlobeScan, asked people in 27 different countries what event of global significance did they think was the most important in 2005? Whilst there was no disagreement as to what these events were: the war in Iraq, Asian Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, death of Pope John Paul, London bombings, Pakistan earthquake, Bali bombings and Avian flu, in some countries these events were given greater significance than others.

So for example, the war in Iraq was the most significant event for 15% of all of those polled, although 43% of Iraqis saw it as the most significant whereas only 9% in the UK made it their top event. It was suggested by GlobeScan that the extent to which people in different countries perceive the same events as significant is a sign of how much the world has become globalised – I argue that it is access and movement of information that facilitates this globalisation. Street level capture and dissemination of information and events is now easily possible allowing for contemporaneous observation and comment on a huge range of occurrences worldwide.

I mention the RCN survey, because this week I opened the 6th International Evidence Based Library and Information Practice Conference hosted by the School. My thanks to Alison and Maria for having the vision and faith to make this conference happen. There were 170 delegates from 15 different countries, plus many more delegates accessing the conference through a real-time on-line programme. In my paper I presented my ideas around learning and working at the edges of knowledge, knowing and not-knowing, and I had great fun. It was one of those occasions where what I set out to do in a very serious way became a humorous and much more light hearted challenge to our thinking. I think the RCN probably got it right in 2005, but in a world where I now have more computing power and communication access in my smart phone than I have in my lap top, I think it will increasingly important that we help our colleagues not just how to better access information, but also develop new strategies for how that information can be used as an evidence base for our practice.

Nick, another colleague working in our School is Editor-in-Chief of Informatics for the Health and Social Care journal, and he does just that on an international stage, the journals impact factor has gone from 0.471 to a 1.000 this year. Likewise the journal I’m Associate editor of, the International Journal of Mental Health Nursing has this year just received its first impact factor of 1.427. But it’s not just words that can make a difference. It is also how and where the words are delivered that can be important. Like me, I am sure there is is somewhere you might have been to where the company, place and conversational focus all come together, and where the resultant experience is then so good. I think this may be the case for at least one of my colleagues this week.

Across the world this week, in Durban, South Africa, a midwife with more than 30 years experience in developing midwifery practice and service management, Frances Day-Stirk’s was confirmed as President of the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM). Her professional interests include the organisation of maternity services, homebirth, promoting normal childbirth, newborn care and safer motherhood. She is a widely published writer and in particular on her ideas about learning research and practice development.

Elaine one of our Midwifery team was also there in Durban and she was there to promote her work on using art to further our understanding of effective midwifery practice. The world is becoming a smaller place as a consequence of new technology and how we realise the potential of access to information, but it is enriched by the way in which we promote the creativity that’s there in all of us.

And without this blog becoming like a popular film title, I ended this week not at a funeral, but at a wedding. Which was a joyous occasion. I want to wish Samantha and Dean all the very best for their future - and can say the NHS is safe in your hands!