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Special Section: Online Journal Publication

This article is one of a group of articles written in response to a call to online journal editors for manuscripts describing the evolution of their online journal for the Topic "Electronic Publishing" We invite submission of other manuscripts that further the discussion of Online Journal Publication

Louis Pilla, M.Ed.

Abstract provides information for nurses on the Internet. This article provides an overview of this professional website, including how the website began, its focus and purpose, staffing, editorial content, revenue generation, operational issues, challenges and opportunities.

Citation: Pilla, L. (March 31, 2001) "Electronic Journals: Content, Community, and Commerce for Nurses" Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. Vol. 6 No. 2. Available:

Key words: nursing, internet, website, VerticalNet,


Launched in April 1999, is a premier source of information for nurses on the Internet. This comprehensive website covers the major issues, trends, and professional and clinical information nurses need to stay up-to-date with their profession.

This website has three goals: First, to become the leading source of clinical, professional, product, and services information for nurses. Second, to create a community where nurses can share their expertise and experience. And third, to provide a way for nurses to efficiently reach suppliers who meet their needs for products and services. covers the broad spectrum of nursing. The bulk of the editorial content, all of which is provided free, is directed toward the hospital-based staff nurse. But the information is also pertinent to nurse managers, vice presidents/directors of nursing, nurses in outpatient settings, educators, researchers, case managers, occupational health nurses, and others. What’s more, product manufacturers and service companies for nursing can find information of value to them on the site, helping them stay in touch with the profession their company serves.

This article will discuss’s focus and purpose, staffing, a description of the editorial content it provides, how revenues are generated, operational issues, and challenges and opportunities. Before discussing what makes unique, a discussion of VerticalNet, Inc.,’s parent company, is needed. A VerticalNet Community is one of 59 communities from VerticalNet Markets, a strategic business unit of VerticalNet, Inc. VerticalNet Markets ( owns and operates industry-specific websites known as vertical trade communities. These vertical trade communities provide users with comprehensive sources of information, interaction and e-commerce. They are grouped into the following industry sectors: communications, energy, environment/utilities, financial service, food/packaging, foodservice/hospitality, healthcare, high tech, industrial, manufacturing/discrete, manufacturing/process, public sector, science and services. Mark Walsh, chairman and former CEO, called VerticalNet a "cyber meeting place" in a recent article in Executive Edge (Banham, 2000). falls into the healthcare sector, along with related websites Hospital, Long Term Care, Home Health,, and Medical Design

Since 1995, VerticalNet has been building and managing these centers of business on the Internet for diverse industry and professional sectors. VerticalNet doesn’t publish print journals. The company, based in Horsham, PA, is devoted entirely to developing communities on the Internet and widely regarded as a leader in business-to-business and professional websites.

Among the unique aspects of, a few stand out:

Content updated daily. Besides press releases, provides original articles, including columns from nursing experts on specific topic areas, and professional and clinical features. Thus, the website provides a continually updated source of professional information for the nursing community.

Breadth of offerings. A visit to the home page reveals a range of services for nurses. Besides the content featured on our News and Analysis page, viewers can take advantage of the following:

  • Product Center, which features product information, including a Buyers Guide of equipment and services of use to the community
  • Marketplace, which offers books, software, videos and research for nurses
  • Suppliers, where viewers can peruse Storefront advertisements and E-Commerce Centers from vendors (which will be explained later in this article).
  • Career Center, which offers job listings as well as the ability to post resumes
  • Training, where nurses can peruse educational offerings
  • Resources, with a Web Resource Center listing links to websites of nursing-related associations, publications, government agencies, and more. The Resources section also features a download library of software, as well as discussion forums, and an events calendar.
  • My, which offers community members a way to personalize the content they see, as well as a calendar, stock listings, product and career information.


Like other VerticalNet communities, editorial is under the direction of a content manager. In conjunction with the managers, a team of content developers also works on providing daily content to the site. also has an editorial Advisory Board of expert clinicians providing focus and overall strategic direction for The Editorial Advisory Board brings together thought leaders in nursing. These experts come from various settings and bring to bear expertise to ensure that remains timely and focused on viewers' needs. Current members include:

  • Janice Boutotte, MS, RN, CS, Director of Patient Management Services, Division of Tuberculosis Prevention and Control, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Boston, MA.
  • Marcy Portnoff Gever, RPh, MEd, and Larry N. Gever, PharmD. Based in Voorhees, NJ, Marcy Gever, pharmacist and educator, is president of Patient Communications Resources (PCR). Larry Gever is a clinical pharmacist who has nearly 20 years of drug information experience.
  • Jill Howie, RN, MS, ACNP, Assistant Clinical Professor, Interim Director of Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Program, University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) School of Nursing, and Nurse Practitioner Acute Care-Medicine.
  • Eileen Robinson, RN, MSN, independent clinical consultant, Chadds Ford, PA. Eileen has more than 20 years of experience encompassing clinical, education, publishing and business aspects of nursing.

Targeted Content

Among the current offerings are the following:

News – Each day the site is updated with news of interest to the profession. That includes updates on regulatory issues and legislation, as well as stories about clinical studies, medication errors, and new drug offerings.

Features – Each week, the site is updated with an in-depth feature on a professional or clinical topic. Recent features, for example, examine whether families should be present during critical care procedures, six steps to effective patient education, and the benefits of distance learning.

Departments – This is one of the richest areas of original content on the site. Among the offerings are the following:

  • I.V. Q and A – Questions and answers on intravenous therapy from the Intravenous Nurses Society
  • Pharmacist Advisor – Questions and answers on new medications, adverse drug reactions, and other medication issues from expert pharmacists
  • Pat Carroll’s Career Corner – practical information on nursing careers and job-related issues from a nursing expert
  • Manager’s Roundtable – hands-on information for the front-line nurse manager
  • Legal Briefing – summaries of court cases involving nurses
  • Professional Perspectives – interviews with nursing thought leaders
  • Lisa Black on Sharps Safety – advice from an expert on preventing needlesticks and creating and maintaining a safe working environment
  • Eileen Robinson on Critical Pointers - key steps for managing acutely ill adults for nurses who work in all settings.
  • Advanced Practice – news of interest to nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists
  • Case studies – Real-world stories of how a product or service solved a problem in a clinical setting
  • Conference coverage – Editors attend conferences and seminars throughout the country and report directly from the event. They provide information about the latest trends and products from the conference floor and session rooms.
  • Editorial archive – Viewers can search the content of by using keywords. They can search just the last 90 days of content or every story ever posted on the site.
  • Month in review – This feature allows a viewer to get a "quick read" on the latest news by listing the most recent stories in each content area.
  • E-mail newsletter – Twice each week, viewers can get a rundown on the most important stories that have been posted to the site by receiving a free e-mail newsletter.


One of the strengths of is that it is part of a "portfolio" company. "Why go it alone when you can share software, connectivity, hosting, and customer-service costs across multiple verticals? With us, the cost of operating a single vertical will always be lower than operating it on a standalone basis," says Walsh in Executive Edge (Banham, 2000).

Because VerticalNet has 59 communities, is sustained by a firm with revenues from many different sources. Two main revenue sources are Storefronts and E-Commerce Centers.

Advertisers can purchase a Storefront on, which serves as an information and lead generation center. Customers can see what a company has to offer with such features as a company logo, information about the company, links to new products, and links to company and product-related articles and news releases.

An E-Commerce Center gives a company an online sales center where customers can stop, specify, and buy. It makes products or services available for purchase 24 hours a day. It also provides a way to showcase products, company news, job openings, and more.

Operational issues

The content manager ( solicits manuscripts in various ways, including professional contacts, attending conferences, reviewing the literature, and queries from potential authors. takes copyright to material published on the site. Of note, the contributor’s guidelines are posted on the site, so that potential authors can immediately see what is needed for publication. is marketed through both traditional and nontraditional methods. Traditional models include booth exhibits at conferences and advertisements in print journals. Nontraditional models include listings with search engines that position as a source of nursing information.

Peer Review is currently not peer reviewed, though manuscripts may be sent to members of the Editorial Advisory Board for their review and comment. This ensures the relevance and clinical accuracy of the material posted on the site.

Challenge and Opportunity

Creating a website for nurses provides various challenges and opportunities, among them the following:

  • Interaction. Because of the pervasiveness of e-mail, viewers can respond quickly to stories posted on the site. This kind of reader interchange is impossible to achieve in print. Discussion Forums are another way that readers can interact with each other and with nursing experts.
  • Timeliness. Speed is at the heart of the Web. As opposed to print publications or even newspapers, can disseminate information within minutes. This poses a challenge for the staff to work quickly, and the staff relies on various automated tools to help it generate and post content with speed and accuracy (Hagel III, 1997).
  • Global reach. Information posted on the site is available to viewers worldwide. A notable portion of the traffic to comes from outside the U.S. and the site provides coverage of events outside the U.S. as well as within its borders. Non-U.S. viewers don’t have to wait for months for a print publication to reach them.

    A UI team is charged with continually refining the "look and feel" of the site so that viewers can easily access the information they’re looking for.
  • User interface (UI). Making it easy for viewers to see at an instant what the website offers is a challenge. A UI team is charged with continually refining the "look and feel" of the site so that viewers can easily access the information they’re looking for. Because presents content, advertisements, a career center, discussion forums, a bookstore, and much more, making it easy for viewers to see all these features at a glance takes substantial effort. The UI team must also take into account the speed at which viewers are downloading information.
  • Marketing. faces the challenge of simply being known. As opposed to nursing print journals, many of which have existed for years, the website is new and therefore must become visible. It also has to distinguish itself from the many nursing websites in existence today, providing the best possible user experience.
  • Partnerships. The business and editorial team seeks partnerships with associations, commercial vendors, websites, print journals, and others. These partnerships can take many different forms, and involve sharing of content and commerce opportunities (Special Report, 2000).

Final Thoughts

Finally, being on the leading edge of a new medium has its own rewards. Few rules and few boundaries exist.
There are many joys in managing Primary among them is the knowledge that the editorial team has at its disposal a robust engine for disseminating information to the audience. We can provide authoritative, accessible information through this new medium.

Finally, being on the leading edge of a new medium has its own rewards. Few rules and few boundaries exist. Sailing uncharted waters might sometimes feel dangerous, but it’s also exhilarating.


Louis Pilla, M.Ed.

Louis Pilla is content manager of and director of content management at Verticalnet, Inc. Previously, he was executive editor at Springhouse Corporation, where he was on the senior editorial staff of Nursing, a leading general-interest subscription journal for the nursing profession. There he was responsible for acquiring articles, editing in-depth clinical features (including continuing-education articles), and reporting on clinical studies and professional issues. Pilla also edited The Nurse Practitioner, a research and practice journal for advanced practice nurses, and worked on Physician Assistant journal. He also created special continuing-education supplements for leading healthcare companies and was involved with the debut of the Springhouse website. Prior to Springhouse, he worked as an editor for trade publications directed toward computer professionals and business managers. Pilla is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA), with a bachelor's degree in English and master's degree in Education.


Banham, R. (2000, June-July). The B2B bazaar. Executive Edge, Available:

Hagel III, J., & Armstrong, A.G. (1997). Net gain: Expanding markets through virtual communities. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1997.

Special Report: Health and Medicine. (2000, April 10). The Industry Standard, pp. 170-173.

© 2001 Online Journal of Issues in Nursing
Article published March 31, 2001

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