1. Perry, William MA, RN

Article Content

The Internet has brought the spirit of global communication and collaboration to nurses and other healthcare professionals in ways never before thought possible. These resources are offered to expand your pportunities for discussion, reference, education, and research.


Edutopia ( is a Web site about K-12 education, imagination, and practical creativity. One recent article is entitled "Building a Digital Locker: Personal Learning Networks Explained." It describes the activities of ninth graders who build their own online resources pages on a variety of subjects. Not only does this serve as a repository of personal reference information, but the content is self-updating. As the content in many of their reference sites changes, their sites are automatically updated as well. How do they do this? They key is a tool called RSS, or "Really Simple Syndication." Using RSS updates or "feeds" and a couple of online tools, any nurse can create a constantly updating list of Internet-based resources for areas of professional interest. The information is available from any Internet-connected computer, and nurses can do this at no cost.


There is not much about RSS tools in the nursing literature. Jack Yensen, PhD, RN, wrote about it in Computers, Informatics, Nursing in 2005 [23(3):164-167], and Barbara F. Schloman, PhD, AHIP, wrote about it in the Online Journal of Nursing.


In essence, RSS is a tool that allows an individual to "subscribe" to an Internet site. Once subscribed, the individual is notified, and the information is electronically delivered to a reader where it is available on demand. There are many RSS readers available. Some can be downloaded and used on a personal computer; others are online. Two of the most popular online readers are Bloglines and Google Reader Both of these applications are very easy to set up and are free. Google reader is continually listed as a favorite by many users, and Google has developed a "Google Reader Getting Started Guide" at and a series of "Google Reader Help Videos" at


What kind of information is automatically delivered via RSS, and why should a nurse be interested? Most professional journals publish their table of contents using RSS. Computers, Informatics, Nursing does; visit, scroll to the bottom of the page, and click the "Subscribe to our RSS feed" at the bottom of the page. You can subscribe to news updates and changes in Web sites even update your literature searches at PubMed.


What if the Web site does not have an RSS icon? There are applications that will watch and convert pages to RSS feeds. Luigi Canali De Rossi has an excellent collection of links and descriptions at


For those who prefer to work with e-mail, Tabbloid ( will take a series of RSS feeds and generate a "newspaper" as a pdf file that is delivered to your e-mail account.


Once you have identified sources you want to monitor, you can follow them using Google Reader or create a personal resource page or personal learning environment using Pageflakes (, NetVibes ( or iGoogle ( All are free and easy to set up and maintain.


The goal is to create a personal space on the Web where you control the content, and the content is automatically updated. The focus is on usable information rather than Web page construction and maintenance.


Contributed by


William Perry, MA, RN