Staying Up To Date: Quick Resources and Email Alerts

Kathryn A. Blair, PhD, FNP-BC, FAANP


Topics in Advanced Practice Nursing eJournal. 2009;9(3) 

In This Article


In a recent Medscape column, Dontje articulated the steps for the use of evidence-based practice.[1] The underpinning of evidence-based practice is the "trigger" or the question that drives the nurse practitioner to search for current research to answer a question. The answers can often be found in clinical guidelines or systematic reviews ( Table 1 ); however, proactive clinicians do not usually wait until a question arises to review the current research or topics of interest. This column will offer 1 technique that can be used by clinicians to stay current, and briefly review the critical evaluation of research.

The Problem: Staying Current

The issue for busy clinicians is how to stay current with important practice information such as clinical research and new clinical guidelines. With an average of a half million articles published annually,[2] clinicians would have to spend all their waking hours reading and sifting through this information to extract what is relevant to practice. Current sources of information used by most clinicians are too numerous to describe in detail; however, the most common are colleagues, journals, detailing by pharmaceutical representatives, attending conferences, and participating in continuing education.[3,4] The potential problems that are inherent in these methods are, respectively, assumptions that a colleague has the most current information, the difficulty in deciding which journal to read, bias associated with selling a product, cost, and time.

One Solution: Email Alerts

Email alerts are a convenient and cost effective way to stay up-to-date with the latest clinical and practice-related news and information. Clinicians can take advantage of numerous government, clinical, and commercial sources of email alerts ( Table 2 , Table 3 ). Email alerts enable clinicians to peruse topics of interest and then go to original sources for additional details. Many email alerts allow the clinician to choose specific content areas or specialty topics. For example, among the email alerts sent by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) are updates on evidence-based practice, grant opportunities, articles of interest, press releases, and clinical guidelines. To initiate email alerts from AHRQ, clinicians should visit the AHRQ home page and click on email alerts, which will lead to a selection of interest areas.

On Medscape, the clinician can subscribe to email summaries of clinical topics, called MedPulse. Other sources of regular email alerts and electronic newsletters include Prescribers' Letter and Journal Watch. Both of these resources offer interpretations of the research.