Open Access Research article

Drug information resources used by nurse practitioners and collaborating physicians at the point of care in Nova Scotia, Canada: a survey and review of the literature

Andrea L Murphy123*, Mark Fleming4, Ruth Martin-Misener1, Ingrid S Sketris2, Mary MacCara25 and David Gass56

Author affiliations

1 Dalhousie University, School of Nursing, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

2 Dalhousie University, College of Pharmacy, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

3 IWK Health Centre, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

4 St. Mary's University, Psychology Department, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

5 Department of Family Medicine, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

6 At the time of research, Primary Health Care Section, Nova Scotia Department of Health, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

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Citation and License

BMC Nursing 2006, 5:5  doi:10.1186/1472-6955-5-5

Published: 6 July 2006



Keeping current with drug therapy information is challenging for health care practitioners. Technologies are often implemented to facilitate access to current and credible drug information sources. In the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, legislation was passed in 2002 to allow nurse practitioners (NPs) to practice collaboratively with physician partners. The purpose of this study was to determine the current utilization patterns of information technologies by these groups of practitioners.


Nurse practitioners and their collaborating physician partners in Nova Scotia were sent a survey in February 2005 to determine the frequency of use, usefulness, accessibility, credibility, and current/timeliness of personal digital assistant (PDA), computer, and print drug information resources. Two surveys were developed (one for PDA users and one for computer users) and revised based on a literature search, stakeholder consultation, and pilot-testing results. A second distribution to nonresponders occurred two weeks following the first. Data were entered and analysed with SPSS.


Twenty-seven (14 NPs and 13 physicians) of 36 (75%) recipients responded. 22% (6) returned personal digital assistant (PDA) surveys. Respondents reported print, health professionals, and online/electronic resources as the most to least preferred means to access drug information, respectively. 37% and 35% of respondents reported using "both print and electronic but print more than electronic" and "print only", respectively, to search monograph-related drug information queries whereas 4% reported using "PDA only". Analysis of respondent ratings for all resources in the categories print, health professionals and other, and online/electronic resources, indicated that the Compendium of Pharmaceuticals and Specialties and pharmacists ranked highly for frequency of use, usefulness, accessibility, credibility, and current/timeliness by both groups of practitioners. Respondents' preferences and resource ratings were consistent with self-reported methods for conducting drug information queries. Few differences existed between NP and physician rankings of resources.


The use of computers and PDAs remains limited, which is also consistent with preferred and frequent use of print resources. Education for these practitioners regarding available electronic drug information resources may facilitate future computer and PDA use. Further research is needed to determine methods to increase computer and PDA use and whether these technologies affect prescribing and patient outcomes.