Skip to Main Content

Practical Nursing: Library Research

This guide provides quick access to quality resources relevant to Practical Nursing

Information Literacy

Information literacy is defined by the Association of College and Research Libraries as "the set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective discovery of information, the understanding of how information is produced and valued, and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities of learning."


Why is Information Literacy Important?

Acquiring skills to translate information into knowledge is relevant to all disciplines.
Better research skills can produce more effectively-argued research papers.
Information literacy empowers students to learn for themselves and make informed decisions.
Students are new to scholarship and the academy, and their mental models can be different from those of faculty.
Information literacy gives students strategies to look for bias and assess context when evaluating information.
Information literacy is linked to professional competency and gives graduates skills that are relevant to their work and personal lives.

(Dalhousie University Libraries. (n.d.). What is information literacy and how can I incorporate it into my classroom?

Standards from Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL)

  • The information literate student determines the nature and extent of the information needed.
  • The information literate student accesses needed information effectively and efficiently.
  •  The information literate student evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system.
  • The information literate student, individually or as a member of a group, uses information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose.
  • The information literate student understands many of the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information and accesses and uses information ethically and legally.

Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL). (2015). Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education.

Seven Habits and Skills

This program presents seven habits and skills for improving one's information literacy. It discusses finding your information needs, developing search strategies, evaluating sources, analyzing information, considering information, using information ethically, and practicing.

Evaluating Information Sources

This program examines ways to know if a source is credible by looking at authorship and expertise, the publisher or platform, objectivity and bias, citations and references, and timeliness and currency of the information.

Effective Search Strategies

Discussing how Boolean operators work, this program teaches search techniques for refining online searches. It also considers phrase, date range, file type, language, site-specific, numeric range, related terms, and advanced image searches

Media Literacy

How do you know if something is fake news? This program emphasizes the value of developing your critical thinking skills. It looks at source evaluation, media bias, political bias, ideological bias, corporate bias, sensationalism, and confirmation bias.

Ethical Use of Information

Emphasizing the importance of using information in a way that is fair, honest, and shows respect for others, this program discusses aspects of copyright, plagiarism (including self-plagiarism), fair use, and privacy of information.

Media Literacy: A Summary

This program emphasizes that information literacy is not just about knowing where to find information; it's about knowing how to evaluate, analyze and use that information effectively, and responsibly. It reviews the importance of critical thinking and building one's media literacy skills.

Health Literacy

Health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the ability to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.

It includes knowing how to describe symptoms, where to find help for health issues, how to understand medical information and how to safely manage the use of medication

Increasing health literacy is essential to empowering people to manage their health and advocate for their family’s and their own well being, as well as reducing the burden on Canada’s health care system.

(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2020), What is health literacy?

ABC Life Literacy Canada. (2022) Health literacy.

Health Literacy is dependent on person and system factors such as:

  • Knowledge of health topics
  • Culture
  • Mother language
  • Age
  • Literacy and Numeracy
  • Communication skills of health-care providers

(Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO). (n.d.). Nursing best practice guidelines: Principles of health literacy.

Health literacy is connected to health equity (attaining the highest level of health for all people).We will achieve health equity when everyone has the opportunity to be as healthy as possible. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2020), What is health literacy?

People with low health literacy are less likely to:

  • Be able to identify their own medications
  • Understand how to take their medications
  • Understand the potential side effects
  • People with low health literacy are more likely to misunderstand warning labels
    (ABC Life Literacy Canada. (2022) Health literacy.

Health Literacy in Canada

  • 23% of Canadians find it “fairly difficult” or “very difficult” to find out where to get professional help when they are ill
  • 54% find it “fairly difficult” or “very difficult” to judge when to seek a second opinion from another doctor
  • 60% of adults in Canada are unable to obtain, understand and act upon health information and services and to make appropriate health decisions on their own.
  • Seniors, immigrants and unemployed people have, on average, lower levels of health literacy skills
  • Research estimates that providing chronic patients with education on self-management combined with ongoing supervision by a case manager could create savings of over $2,000 per patient per year
  • There are more adults with low health literacy (60%) than there are with low levels of prose literacy (48% – defined as the ability to understand and use information from texts). These numbers suggest that the two literacies are different.
  • Health literacy tasks usually involve a combination of prose literacy, document literacy and numeracy skills

(ABC Life Literacy Canada. (2022) Health literacy.

The Challenge of Healthcare Literacy

This program provides healthcare personnel clear techniques to utilize when facing a population with low healthcare literacy and teaches actions to take to help all patients make informed healthcare choices. It looks at the prevalence of low healthcare literacy and identifies some of its causes, examines patient behaviors that help to identify those with low healthcare literacy, and examines the components of an informed consent, offering techniques for assisting patients to make informed healthcare choices.

Behavior Indicating Problems with Health Literacy

Red flags include lack of clarity about medications, difficulty explaining medical problems, does not ask questions, seeking help late, expressing anger or walking out, difficulty comprehending written materials, incomplete forms, miss appointments, skipped tests, and non-compliance with medications. Educate healthcare providers, insist on a teach-back, assess cognitive levels, use simple language, and speak slowly. Encourage a patient to ask about their diagnosis, treatment, and why it is important.

Additional Resources

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Boasting an exceptional cast and production team, and based on Rebecca Skloot’s critically acclaimed 2010 nonfiction best-seller of the same name, this HBO Films drama tells the true story of Henrietta Lacks, an African- American woman whose cells were used to create the first immortal human cell line, known as HeLa. Told primarily through the eyes of Lacks’ daughter Deborah (Oprah Winfrey) and journalist Rebecca Skloot (Rose Byrne), the film chronicles Deborah’s search to learn about the mother she never knew, and to understand how the unauthorized harvesting of Lacks’ cancerous cells in 1951 led to unprecedented medical breakthroughs, from cancer to polio to radiation to AIDS, changing countless lives and the face of medicine forever. With a supporting cast that includes Renée Elise Goldsberry, Reg E. Cathey, Courtney B. Vance, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Leslie Uggams, Reed Birney, Rocky Carroll and John Douglas Thompson, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a story of medical arrogance and triumph, race, poverty, and deep friendship between the unlikeliest of people.