Psychiatric-mental health nursing on the web

Psychiatric-mental health nursing on the web

ARCHIVES OF PSYCHIATRIC NURSING Vol. XIV, No. 5 October 2000 EDITORIAL Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing on the Web T HERE IS NO doubt that our...

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October 2000


Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing on the Web


HERE IS NO doubt that our professional lives have been changed by computers. Perhaps the greatest change involves information available on the internet or World Wide Web. Because computers and telephones are so readily available, both professionals and consumers are accessing health care information—including mental health and psychiatric nursing information— from the Web. A main advantage of Web usage is the 24-hour, 7-day accessibility from any site that has a computer and internet service provider. I will address the basics of searching for, i.e., “surfing” and accessing this information; provide a small sample of useful Web sites for the psychiatric nurse and his or her patients; and discuss how to evaluate the accuracy of the information. The first issue involves the best methods for finding the information. It is easy to get overwhelmed with the massive amount of information that exists. The number of Web pages has increased exponentially during the past few years. Time spent searching for information can be frustrating so that minutes turn into hours of looking for credible information on a specific topic. Perhaps the most common methods of search are use of a Web search engine and a Web directory. A Web search engine uses automatic indexing software to search. These engines index Web pages so that specific topics can be located within them. However, there is great variability in the way the databases are built, so there is great unevenness in results using different search engines. There are, however, specialized search engines for health care

information and by using them one can find very useful psychiatric nursing information. These engines restrict their retrieval to Web pages only for information pertinent to health care professionals. Two popular examples are Health on the Net ( and Medical World Search ( Although Web search engines are useful, I find Web directories less frustrating and more reliable. Site selection is done by humans rather than automated computer software. Consider the Web directory as a subject catalog that allows you to select topics to guide you to selected Web-based information. Important here are the specialized Web directories that allow us to retrieve psychiatricmental health nursing information. Most provide free access; however, some require a one time registration and may offer free e-mail notification of articles that are published in your specialized area of interest. There are several, but I would like to highlight 3 that are free of charge: Medical Matrix (; Medscape (; and Mental Health Net ( A unique aspect of Mental Health Net is that it also includes discussion lists and newsgroups. My favorite, however, is Medscape. After I registered and indicated my special interest topics, they now

Copyright 䊚 2000 by W.B. Saunders Company doi:10.1053/apnu.2000.9811

Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, Vol. XIV, No. 5 (October), 2000: pp 211-212



send me e-mail notification when an article is published related to my specialized interest. Numerous Web sites also provide information for psychiatric nurses and mental health consumers. Many of these sites provide useful links to other good sites. Most professional organizations have a Web site that provides research and practice information for clinicians. For example, the International Society of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses ( and the American Psychiatric Nurses Association ( both have sites. One of my favorites is the Web site for the American Psychological Association ( Links to a wealth of research and clinical articles are provided. Consumer groups also have Web sites. The one I prefer is provided by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill ( Finally, there are other sites devoted to specific illnesses. An excellent example of this is one devoted to information on schizophrenia (http://www.schizophrenia. com). These Web sites generally provide good educational and research information for both professionals and consumers and their families. Such sites are usually easy to find in that the name of the illness is clearly stated in the site’s address. An important distinction between print and electronic information is that just about anyone can create a Web site and thus be their own publisher. It is critical, therefore, to evaluate the Web site


from which you are accessing information. Schloman (1999) outlines 5 criteria for evaluation: (1) Who created the site? (2) Is the purpose and intention of the site clear, including any bias or particular viewpoint? (3) Is the information presented accurate? (4) Is the information current? (5) Is the site well designed and stable? Schloman points out that the searcher must approach each site with skepticism to gather evidence of quality or lack of the same. In summary, a great deal of useful psychiatric nursing research and clinical practice information is available on the Web. Such information can be accessed from home at any time. Many of the articles can be easily e-mailed to a colleague or patient, which is a terrific way of sharing the information. Many of the same authors that one recognizes in print journals are now publishing their research and clinical insights on the Web. With care, there can be fewer trips to the library, lower costs for accessing information, and benefits of culling a good deal of expertise on a specialized topic while at home. Happy surfing. Susan Jones Associate Editor REFERENCE Schloman, B. (1999). Whom do you trust? Evaluating internet health resources. Available: ojin/infocol/information.htm