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How Technology Is Taking the World of Nursing Education by Storm

UserGeorgia Taylor time18 September,2017

The purpose of technology is not to confuse the brain but to serve the body.”

                                                                                                         – William S. Burroughs, Novelist and Artist

Let’s take a moment to contemplate on these words uttered by the famous postmodernist, Beats Generation author. The wheel of technology first has started moving during the Industrial Revolution and it has been a long ride since then. Now technology has enveloped all spheres of our lives in its mould, and there’s no getting out of it. While the impact of technology on our personal lives has been profound, its effect on the way, it has transformed the education system that cannot be ignored. Especially if we consider nursing education.

The use of technology in the domain of nursing and medicine has increased rapidly, and nowhere else can technology help in serving the body better than in these sectors. In fact, advanced technology is changing the way the nursing world works. According to research conducted by the National League for Nursing’s Centre for Innovation in Simulation and Technology and the Wolters Kluwer Health, 65% of all the nursing educational courses in the US use virtual simulation as a method of teaching.

Nursing Education by Storm

This survey was released at the 2017 National League for Nursing Education Summit in San Diego, and it further went on to reveal that within the next five years, nursing education will witness a rise in the use of virtual reality in classrooms, jumping from the current 10% to a whopping 45%. The report also said that when compared to other educational disciplines, nursing is one area that has adopted technology into its fold faster than the rest. In this regard, the survey, in which 500 nursing faculty and administrators had taken part, also mentioned that 60% of nursing education programs in the country utilize electronic health records.

Julie Stegman, publisher and vice president of the nursing education department of the Wolters Kluwer Health Learning, Research and Practice reaffirmed the importance of technology in nursing education, “This survey confirms the important role nurse educators play in advancing the use of technology in the classroom through their willingness to act as early adopters and trailblazers. By seeking out innovative technologies like adaptive quizzing and virtual simulation, nurse educators are helping to overcome resource challenges and pave the way for their peers in other areas of higher education to also get benefitted from these advances.”

Sue Forneris, excelsior deputy director of the National League for Nursing Center for Innovation in Simulation and Technology also stressed on how the use of technology in nursing education is miles ahead when compared to other fields: “Where general education is expected to focus on adaptive learning and Internet of Things technologies over the next five years, nursing programs will be implementing virtual reality and data analytics tools.”

From this report and the data it presented, it is quite clear that technology has indeed taken the world of nursing education by storm. But that begs the question that what are the specific technological advancements that have taken place in the domain of nursing education? And how have they helped? Are there any challenges in its path? In the following sections of this blog, we will strive to answer these questions.

The Types Of Technology Used In Nursing Education

Through the survey we discussed above, we got some idea of the kind of technological advancement that has taken place when it comes to education in nursing. But to know the full extent of it, a clearer picture needs to be presented. In this section, we will promulgate the types of technologies that are used in nursing education and how they help.

  • Online classes

Although this is the basic implantation of technology in the educational sphere, it has proven to be particularly beneficial for nursing students. Those who want to take up nursing as a career can now get an online degree, which offers them both convenience as well as flexibility. Getting an online degree is particularly beneficial for working nurses as they get the option to complete their masters’ degree in nursing without shifting base or applying for a new job near the location of the university concerned.

Generally, online learning is managed through a software program called Learning Management System which handles all aspects of e-learning registration for different courses, tracking student progress, managing nursing assignments and tasks, etc. There are other software too that nursing schools can choose from in order to impart online education to students.

  • Mobile Technology

Mobile technology has helped both nursing students as well as professional nurses. Through smartphones and other forms of mobile devices, students and nurses can now get instant access to medical textbooks, drug references, diagnoses and more via apps. This helps in saving valuable time as well as encourages learning on-the-go.

With mobile devices at their disposal, students can look up nursing procedures, treatments and disease information quickly to provide the right diagnosis when handling critical cases. Wireless communication systems such as Bluetooth headsets are also used to train nurses and help in communicating effectively and quickly in emergency situations.

  • Simulated Environment

One of the forms of technology that is being widely used in the nursing education sector is the simulation technique. Mannequins are used as model patients and are made to mimic situations by instructors, which nurses can face during their career. Based on the way these mannequins replicate medical emergencies, students can take notes of what nurses should do and should not do in such situations. They can also perform practical experiments on the mannequin without worrying about the consequences. For example, students can check the vital signs of the patient, or the mannequin in this case, and make an informed decision based on the symptoms displayed.

The use of simulation in nursing education brings forth a safe environment where students get the chance to practice decision making and critical thinking skills to the fullest as they do not have to worry about the mannequin facing any fatal consequences. While this can be a real-world simulation (one in which mannequins are used), virtual simulation is even one step ahead of it.

Real world simulation requires the physical presence of the students, but with a virtual simulation that is not required. Online virtual software can be used to simulate patients on-screen, which students can analyse at their own free will. Games are a great example of this and students can use these to respond to patient situations in real-time with the help of the right tools and procedures.

What gives simulation an edge over traditional teaching techniques of nursing is that through simulation students can experience endless scenarios with endless possibilities. It also gives them insight into more complex problems, which would have been impossible to recreate in real-world situations.

  • Other technologies

While the above three are the central technologies used in nursing education, there are many others too that are quietly transforming the education scene and are all set to be an integral part of the future of nursing students as well as professionals. These technologies include maintaining electronic patient records, wireless patient monitoring, using chips to track down vital equipment as well as using barcodes to scan and send vital patient information instantly and effectively. 

The Challenges In The Implementation Of Technology In Nursing Education

Despite the advancement of technology in the sector of nursing education, it can be a termed as a process that is still largely incomplete. The path of integrating technology into the field of nursing education is one that is wrought with challenges. In this section, we will discuss the challenges in-depth.

  • Unskilled faculty

This is not to say that the professors and supervisors in-charge do not possess the skills required to teach students nursing the right way. What we mean here by ‘unskilled’ is that most of the faculty lack the knowledge to function the technologies used in nursing education correctly. Most of the existing faculty have not grown up in the digital age and hence, find it difficult to adapt the changes in the method of teaching. Teaching with the help of technology is an acquired skill rather than an intuitive one. Hence, the faculty need to be trained themselves before they can train students.

  • Maintaining a balance between humans and technology

There’s no doubt that incorporating technology into the discipline of nursing has huge advantages, including ensuring speedy and more efficient treatment. However, it’s impossible to stop oneself from wondering what does this mean for the nurses. Will nurses become disposable once technology takes over? The possibility of such a scenario should be weeded out by striking a balance between the human element and technology. Technology should only act as a supplement to human resources, not a replacement for them.

  • Costs and benefits

To determine exactly how beneficial a particular resource is, its cost should be evaluated against the advantages it brings. As of now, most of the technology used in nursing is way too expensive, and its costs far outweigh its benefits. For the effective implementation of technology in the nursing sector, its costs need to be brought down, which can only happen if there’s a high demand for it.

  • Unethical use

Another big challenge that stands in the way of technology and nursing is the unethical use of it. This includes stealing patient information, making use of technology for deviant acts etc. To prevent this from happening, parameters need to be set that define the ethical as well as the unethical use of technology in nursing education. The rules set should be clear and strict and should come with penalties if violated. Discussion groups and workshops should also be conducted to teach nursing students about the ethical concerns that centre round the use of technology.

Technology may have shaken the world of nursing education, and even revolutionized it to a certain extent, but it is still in its nascent stage. New technologies are almost introduced every day, with many of them being discarded before they can even be implemented. In this regard, it is safe to assume that we live in exciting times and it would be fun to watch the future of technology in nursing education.

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