As technology in nursing and medicine has developed, so has technology’s role in nursing education. Nursing students may have access to online education, live and web-based simulations, apps, reference guides and electronic textbooks on mobile devices.
“Technology also has the power to transform teaching by ushering in a new model of connected teaching,” according to the U.S. Department of Education. “This model links teachers to their students and to professional content, resources, and systems to help them improve their own instruction and personalize learning.”
Perhaps one of the biggest changes brought by technology is the availability of online degree programs. These programs offer convenience and flexibility that can allow more people to pursue a degree. A working nurse can complete a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in Nursing Administration or other online MSN programs without having to move and find a new job.
Online education operates through a Learning Management System (LMS). These software programs handle all facets of the e-learning process, including delivering content, handling registration for courses, tracking and reporting. Nursing programs can choose from a number of different systems, each offering different features and benefits.
Another use of technology in nursing education is simulations with electronic, training manikins. Instructors can program the manikins to mimic scenarios nurses might see in clinical practice. Students can take vital signs and make decisions based on the manikin’s symptoms. It is a safe environment where students can practice their critical thinking and decision-making skills, knowing the manikin will not stay dead if it dies, according to an issue of Nurse Education Today.
While manikins require a physical presence, online virtual realities can simulate patients as well. Using screen-based simulation such as serious gaming, a nursing student can respond to simulated patients in real time using the appropriate tools and procedures. Companies make virtual simulation software to help educate nurses and other healthcare professionals — like the flight simulation software that helps train aircraft pilots.
The emerging use of game-based learning has the same benefits of learning in a simulated environment. According to research, gamifying nursing education has the capability to capture and stimulate student attention. It also encourages the development of skills like critical thinking, innovation and information retention. Most importantly, however, it allows students to practice in a low-risk environment where real patients’ lives are not at risk.
The use of mobile technology in nursing gives students (and working nurses) instant access to drug references, diagnoses, medical textbooks and more using apps and online guides on smartphones and tablets. Plus, mobile technology is highly valued and used in healthcare settings — one article notes that healthcare professionals use smartphones and tablets most often to achieve better staff coordination, improve patient communication and gain easier access to electronic health records (EHR).
Nursing programs vary in the type of technology they use, and they introduce new technology almost daily. There is no doubt that the future will bring more technological ways to enhance the educational process for nurses while also improving patient safety.
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