Apple Technology Branches into Nursing Education

July 1st, 2011

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By , BSN, RN

When classes started in June for the accelerated BSN program at the Thomas Jefferson University Jefferson School of Nursing, students picked out their seats, met their new professors, and hooked into the world of education and technology by turning on their new iPads.

Students will use the iPad to access e-books, lessening the need to carry around some heavy texts. They will be able to watch educational videos, get comfortable with electronic medical records (EMRs) and take examinations. And perhaps most importantly, they will familiarize themselves with point-of-care clinical support tools.

The clinical reference applications available to iPad users cover a large variety of areas including, but not limited to, drug information and dosing calculators, lab value reference guides, nursing care plans, BMI and nutritional charts, and medical dictionaries.

Currently, there is limited evidence of the academic benefits of using personal digital devices in the undergraduate nursing classroom; however, as hospitals forge ahead technologically, and residents, interns and medical faculty are issued smart phones and other portable diagnostic tools, it only makes sense that nurses must keep pace.

In a 2005 issue of Nurse Educator, a Duke University research team reported that the School of Nursing incorporated personal digital assistants (PDAs) into their second degree accelerated BSN program in 2002. The authors provided an overview of the use of the PDAs in the classroom, lab, and during clinical instruction.

The authors asserted that PDA use supports student organizational and leadership skills with the ready availability of evidence-based information and data. The researchers also emphasized, "the student is able to provide immediate patient feedback to a variety of questions ranging from the adverse effects of prescribed drugs to the date of the patient’s next tetanus immunization without leaving the patient. Current software on bioterrorism and real-time data on communicable diseases is at hand on the PDA for students to answer questions and concerns for patients experiencing flu-like symptoms."

A similar study conducted six years ago from California State University, Sacramento, showed that the use of PDAs in the clinical setting for nursing faculty and students needed to continue to be explored. At that time, even though students recognized the benefits of PDA use, they didn't want owning a PDA to be a program requirement.

This hesitancy is almost hard to picture in mid-2011. Every day in educational institutions, hospitals, clinics and healthcare offices around the world, technology is taking over. Nurses, doctors and most importantly, patients, want information, now.

The Apple iPad was released to the public just over a year ago in April, 2010, and the more advanced version hit the streets in March of this year. With its portability, ease of use, and relatively low price — compared to laptops which perform the same tasks but are bulkier and more expensive — the iPad and tablets from other manufacturers may be the next big step in nursing education.

The Thomas Jefferson University experiment is a joint effort between the school of nursing and the school's information technologies and academic and instructional support and the resources departments to bring mobile computing options to the nursing classroom, bedside and laboratory.

Evaluation of the effectiveness of using iPads will occur via focus groups, questionnaires, interviews and end-of-course evaluations.

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