How to... Search Healthcare Databases

The healthcare databases are part of the Journals and Databases collection of resources on NHS Evidence. To search the healthcare databases go to and click on the link to Journals and Databases:

From the Journals and Databases page, select Healthcare databases advanced search and login with your Athens password. If you have not registered for an Athens account please refer to the HEFT Library Services Athens registration guide to create an account. 

Once you have logged into Athens you will be presented with a list of all the healthcare databases.


Each database specialises in a specific area of healthcare e.g. medicine, nursing, management. Select the database that is most relevant to your topic by ticking the checkbox and clicking on 





You will be taken to a search page similar to the one shown below:

To search for articles on a topic, enter a search term in to the search box, tick the Map to Thesaurus checkbox below the search box and click on 

The Thesaurus will display a list of terms for you to choose from. Click the Select checkbox to select a term from the list, e.g. Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus:

You may also check the following boxes dependent on the database you are searching:

Exploded: check the Exploded checkbox to broaden your search to include any narrower terms relating to your topic.

Major Descriptor: selecting the Major Descriptor checkbox will limit your results to articles that have your search term as the main focus or topic of the article. This is useful for retrieving a few key papers on a subject, but is not recommended for a comprehensive search.

Subheadings: check the subheadings box to display a set of subheadings. This can help you to narrow down your search and search



Click on Your search will appear in a Search History grid above the search box.

Note: If the thesaurus does not display any terms that are relevant to your search topic, click cancel to return to the search page and search for your term as free text. To do a free text search, enter your search term in to the box and click on   To search for a phrase enter your term in inverted commas e.g. “infection control”.

Continue searching in this way until you have searched for all the key concepts and topics that you are interested in. You will now need to combine your searches together.


To combine your searches,

tick the boxes alongside your
chosen search terms, choose the
appropriate Boolean operator
(AND or OR) and click on Combine Selected




If you find that you have too many results you can apply limits to refine your search. To apply limits to your search select Apply Limits in the Search history.

All the limit options will be displayed above the search box. Limit options may include publication date, article type and publication language. Note that the number and range of limits varies between databases.




To select a limit, click on a limit tab (e.g. Article Type) and choose from the options listed by using the drop down menu and/ or ticking the appropriate check box. When you have made your selections click on 

The database will rerun your search and display only the articles that match your Limit selections.





To view your results, click on the number in the View Results column.

Where the full text article is available to you electronically, a link is available at the bottom of the record. Click on this link to view the full text article. If HEFT Library Services has a print copy of the journal, this information also appears at the bottom of the record.