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Nursing Journal Clubs


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How many times have you seen a journal article floating around your unit? You have a vested interest in the topic presented on the headline so you open up the 18 page document only to see graphs and tables with microscopic text. Despite your interest and commitment to continuing education, you remember that at minimum you have four more dressing changes to do, 1200h and 1600h meds, your routine patient care, and a family to feed when you get home after your hectic 14 hour day. In addition, the intimidating manuscript does not always foster your confidence in comprehension of the material and willingness to commit the time to reading it. Surely, there must be a way to enable nurses to remain current in clinical research. The answer may be participating in nursing journal clubs.

“Findings from nursing journal club literature suggest that they can improve nurses’ confidence in interpreting and appraising research articles and foster a positive attitude towards research; establish a regular habit of reading and raise awareness of relevant literature; increase knowledge; and lead to practice changes” (Nesbitt, 2013, p. 897).

Journal clubs have been an excellent medium for continuing education for more than 100 years. Dating back to 1849, Sir William Osler was believed to pioneer these teaching techniques within medical schools (St. Pierre, 2005). Professional journal clubs serve two functions. The first is to help students and health care providers remain current in knowledge of clinical research for evidence based care provision (St. Pierre, 2005). The other is to develop the clinician’s ability to critically appraise published research (St. Pierre, 2005). Journal clubs have been predominantly exercised amongst medical practitioners. Currently, evidence suggests nursing journals are becoming popular in an effort to maintain best practices for excellent nursing care provision.

Journal clubs are highly variable from one institution to another in their composition and goals. Some journal clubs are used as a medium to assess needs for policy and practice changes, while others are an informal forum to discuss current research with peers.  For the interest of this post, the Ottawa Civic Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit Journal Club will be used as an example.

One to two facilitators take on the extracurricular initiative and clubs are held on a monthly basis. Responsibilities of the facilitator role include selecting a date, a topic of discussion relevant to the specialty, one to two articles pertinent to the topic, and preparing a presentation. The presentation usually includes an introduction to the issue (i.e. nursing burnout) or disease (i.e. vasospasm) and a summary and analysis of each article. Following the presentation, facilitators promote thoughtful discussion amongst peers. Respectful differences of opinion are encouraged. The articles selected optimally include one that is disease based or medically oriented and one that focuses on current research on nursing practice. This allows knowledge about a disease process to be better understood and evidence based guidelines for nursing practice to be explored. Another common practice is to have a member of another health care profession present at the nursing journal club. Not only does this foster inter-professional collaboration, it also allows for an expert on the topic to discuss relevant research and practice on the subject matter.

I’m sure you’re thinking attending a journal club sounds as fun as a trip to Canada’s Wonderland right? There are lots of additional incentives to attend and support journal clubs. It is important to remember that journal clubs count as continuing education credits (St. Pierre, 2005). Depending on the budget allowance, beverages and appetizers or a small meal may be provided. Some facilitators choose to host their journal clubs at restaurants as an incentive for attendance.

In all aspects of nursing practice, it is important to understand supportive nursing theory. Colley (2003) states, “nursing theory should provide the principles that underpin practice (p. 33).” The Law of Learning theory by Edward Thorndike corroborates the need for nursing journal clubs. The three primary laws include Laws of Effect, Exercise, and Readiness. The Law of Effect shows that “learning is strengthened when accompanied by pleasant feelings” and “weakened by presence of unpleasant feelings (Nursing Theories, 2011)”. This supports the informal, positive atmosphere of a journal club setting, allowing for improved learning outcomes by attendees. The Law of Exercise affirms that learners remember things better when it is repeated (Nursing Theories, 2011). The Law of Readiness believes, “individuals learn best when they are physically, mentally, and emotionally ready to learn, and they do not learn well if they see no reason for learning” (Nursing Theories, 2011). Journal club attendance displays a self-motivated readiness to learn, thus supporting this law. The final law, and one that I believe is most imperative to the argument of journal club efficacy, is the Law of Freedom. Simply stated, this law believes “things freely learned are best learned” (Nursing Theories, 2011). There is no obligation to attend journal clubs, however the commitment to continuing education and remaining current with nursing research will show itself in your excellent and informed patient care provided.

“Traditionally, the journal club has been used by health care disciplines to foster knowledge currency, teach critical thinking, and learn about research methods. By emphasizing practice implications and following up with an action plan, a nursing journal club can go beyond information-sharing to having an impact on patient care” (St. Pierre, 2005, p. 392).

If you are interested in starting a journal club on your floor, feel free to post a comment below or join our Tweet chat next week. We were lucky to take on this endeavour after it had already been established by strong nurse leaders and so far, it has received a lot of positive feedback.

Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to read about the importance of nursing journal clubs.


Carly Lachance, B.Sc.N.


Colley, S. (2003). Nursing theory: its importance in practice. Nursing Standard, 17(46), 33-37
Nesbitt, J. (2013). Journal clubs: A two-site case study of nurses’ continuing professional development. Nurse Education Today, 33, 896-900.
Nursing Theories.(2011). Laws of Learning. Retrieved from
St. Pierre, J. (2005) Changing nursing practice through a nursing journal club. MEDSURG Nursing, 14 (6) 390-392.


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