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*Nursing*

Nursing information in the library, from basic knowledge to specific types of research articles to video tutorials

Where patients get their info

Patients will often come in with info (sometimes even printouts) about the conditions they have (or think they have). Where does this information come from?

  • Web searches: Google is such a common source of health information that they can predict outbreaks of the flu by the location of symptom related searches.
  • Popular medical websites, like Medline Plus and Mayo Clinic, provide good quality info, when patients find them.
  • Personal blogs and patient advocacy associations vary widely in quality. While they can be very reassuring (others have the same problem), they can also mislead and are a common vector for misinformation like anti-vaccine campaigns.
  • Health News: almost all the major news sources have health sections. The reporting varies in quality--shock and scare tactics get clicks, so headlines are usually overstated, even when the information in the article is good.
  • Commercial sites: while there is valuable info on commercial sites, most are essentially advertising--some more blatant than others.

The following posts are from the Health Sciences Types of Articles guide, where these and more types of information are discussed:

News

Health Science news is big business, and there are many sources. All major news organizations (CNN, MSNBC, etc.) have Health sections, but some have better coverage than others. Be careful of interpretation--not all articles will be written by journalists who understand the health science and the scientific process. For instance, "wonder food" articles tout the benefits of some food or supplement, but the studies are often done on very small groups of people, or people with specific conditions, that make their findings less applicable to the general population.

News articles rarely give complete citations to research articles. News articles are often based on press releases sent before the actual research article is published. Mentions of "current issue of (journal)" are common. Check journal tables of contents for issues near the news article publication date.

Professional associations often have news on their websites and in their publications. They can be some of the best sources for news directly related to the field.

Here are a few sources for Health news:

Consumer Health articles

Consumer Health articles include Health News articles, but also magazines such as Prevention and Health. Articles in these magazines are usually accurate, but may be slanted towards the general purpose of the magazine (for instance, few "natural health" magazines will run articles praising antibiotics) and the advertisers. Bias is more likely to be in the form of neglected information or topics, rather than outright falsehood.

Like News, Consumer Health articles will usually mention research, but may not be too specific about an actual reference. Mentions of "latest issue of (journal)" are common, so the date of the journal may be hard to pinpoint exactly. Exact titles and even author/researcher names are not common. You may have to skim several issue tables of contents before finding the correct article.

Consumer Health articles are often excellent for getting overviews of a topic, and provide information in a readable form for patients.

Blogs and Individual websites

There are thousands of blogs about health topics, everything from researchers to organizations to individuals experiencing health issues. Many individual blogs are started with the express purpose of "making it easier for someone else to find information on this disease". Some blogs are set up specifically to sell products. There is some great information in blogs, and a lot of benefit comes from simply being able to read the stories of others. However, remember that none of the information on an average blog is checked for accuracy. Even the best intentioned writer may simply get something wrong, and some will deliberately bend and twist information to support their point or product. Always double check any information found in blogs, and not just by following the links given in the blog posts.

If in doubt, assume a website is a blog or equivalent unverified source.

See Evaluating Sources for more strategies for evaluating websites (and other sources).