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The role of organizational context and individual nurse characteristics in explaining variation in use of information technologies in evidence based practice

Diane Doran1*, Brian R Haynes2, Carole A Estabrooks3, André Kushniruk4, Adam Dubrowski5, Irmajean Bajnok6, Linda McGillis Hall1, Mingyang Li1, Jennifer Carryer1, Dawn Jedras2 and Yu Qing (Chris) Bai1

Author Affiliations

1 Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto, 155 College Street, Toronto, ON, M5S 3H4, Canada

2 Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics HSC-3V43C, McMaster University, 1200 Main Street W, Hamilton, ON, L8N 3Z5, Canada

3 3rd floor CSB, Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2G3, Canada

4 School of Health Information Science, University of Victoria, PO Box 3050 STN CSC, Victoria, BC, V8W 3P5, Canada

5 SickKids Learning Institute; Department of Paediatrics, University of Toronto, 525 University Ave, Room 6021, Unit 600, Toronto, ON, M5G 2L3, Canada

6 Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, 158 Pearl Street, Toronto, ON, M5H 1L3, Canada

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Implementation Science 2012, 7:122  doi:10.1186/1748-5908-7-122

Published: 31 December 2012



There is growing awareness of the role of information technology in evidence-based practice. The purpose of this study was to investigate the role of organizational context and nurse characteristics in explaining variation in nurses’ use of personal digital assistants (PDAs) and mobile Tablet PCs for accessing evidence-based information. The Promoting Action on Research Implementation in Health Services (PARIHS) model provided the framework for studying the impact of providing nurses with PDA-supported, evidence-based practice resources, and for studying the organizational, technological, and human resource variables that impact nurses’ use patterns.


A survey design was used, involving baseline and follow-up questionnaires. The setting included 24 organizations representing three sectors: hospitals, long-term care (LTC) facilities, and community organizations (home care and public health). The sample consisted of 710 participants (response rate 58%) at Time 1, and 469 for whom both Time 1 and Time 2 follow-up data were obtained (response rate 66%). A hierarchical regression model (HLM) was used to evaluate the effect of predictors from all levels simultaneously.


The Chi square result indicated PDA users reported using their device more frequently than Tablet PC users (p = 0.001). Frequency of device use was explained by ‘breadth of device functions’ and PDA versus Tablet PC. Frequency of Best Practice Guideline use was explained by ‘willingness to implement research,’ ‘structural and electronic resources,’ ‘organizational slack time,’ ‘breadth of device functions’ (positive effects), and ‘slack staff’ (negative effect). Frequency of Nursing Plus database use was explained by ‘culture,’ ‘structural and electronic resources,’ and ‘breadth of device functions’ (positive effects), and ‘slack staff’ (negative). ‘Organizational culture’ (positive), ‘breadth of device functions’ (positive), and ‘slack staff ‘(negative) were associated with frequency of Lexi/PEPID drug dictionary use.


Access to PDAs and Tablet PCs supported nurses’ self-reported use of information resources. Several of the organizational context variables and one individual nurse variable explained variation in the frequency of information resource use.

Health information technologies; Mobile technology; Personal digital assistant; Nursing informatics; Information-seeking; Organizational context; Evidence-based practice; PARIHS model