Devices & Technology

High-Tech Higher Education: Nursing Schools' Technology Tools

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By Christina Orlovsky, contributor

September 24, 2010 - As today’s hospitals become increasingly high-tech, today’s nursing students are faced with a need to hone their technology skills before entering the workplace. Accordingly, nursing schools across the nation are implementing advanced technology to ensure the nurses of tomorrow can compete in the high-tech world of health care.

“Technology allows us to design active learning experiences where students seek information to apply appropriately to their clinical situations,” explained Kathleen G. Mastrian, RN, Ph.D., associate professor and program coordinator for nursing at Pennsylvania State University Shenango and the co-author of Integrating Technology in Nursing Education: Tools for the Knowledge Era.

“We have curricula that are content-laden, and we need to let go of the idea that we can cover everything in a classroom or lecture format. We need to develop information literacy skills in our students so that they can build their own knowledge bases,” she added. “Our job is to help them identify what knowledge they need and then to help them apply that knowledge appropriately in practice. We also need to emphasize reflection in and on practice. Every nurse must engage in reflective practice, and commit to continuous improvement.”

Among the growing number of technologies implemented in today’s nursing school curriculums, Mastrian feels the most important have been the electronic course management systems, which continue to be refined. Others, she said, include PDAs podcasting, simulation labs and Web 2.0 tools, such as RSS feeds, Google docs, wikis and more -- all of which are useful in all areas of nursing education.

“We must expose our students to technology in education so they can be adequately prepared for health care technologies,” she said. “Many tech skills are transferable -- that is, once you learn to operate one type of system, you have the skills that readily transfer to another type and take the anxiety out of exposure to new technology.”

Here are several examples of how nursing schools across the nation are embracing technology in education:

According to Mastrian, Pennsylvania State University offers student access to an electronic course management system, wireless technology on all campuses, access to more than 1,500 searchable databases in the library system, and extensive online and blended learning opportunities.

Virtual learning is the name of the game in San Diego, Calif. The Clinical Simulation Laboratory at the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science at the University of San Diego provides students in its master’s degree, nurse practitioner and clinical nurse specialist programs the opportunity to learn in simulated clinical settings. Across town at the Sharp HealthCare Human Patient Simulation Center at San Diego State University, bachelor’s degree nursing students have access to a seven-bed simulated unit, including six adult beds and one pediatric bed.

At the University of Central Florida in Orlando, students take simulation a step further toward more serious scenarios in the Institute for Simulation and Training. The program includes software for interactive surgical simulation and trauma care, including such scenarios as leg amputation, as well as a combat trauma patient simulator and a child patient simulator to help nurses with pediatric pain management.

Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, in Nashville, Tenn., strives to present a state-of-the art curriculum for its bachelor’s and master’s degree students, offering a nursing informatics lab, patient simulators in the classroom and PDAs at patients’ bedsides. Recognizing the future need for tech-savvy nurses, the school also offers a specialized master’s degree program in nursing informatics.

All of the above implementations have the ability to impact the lives of nursing professionals and patients in the years to come. According to Mastrian, technology is the key to future nurses’ success.

“The health care landscape is changing rapidly, with many new technologies being integrated into practice,” Mastrian concluded. “Students must be exposed to technology in education so that they are well prepared to practice. Information literacy is a key skill.”

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