October 22, 2008

My Skyscape: First iPod Touch Medical Reference App

The iPhone could never become truly a handheld computer for the healthcare community until the reference applications could reside on the device. Web-based versions that accessed the database wirelessly have been available but are slow and awkward to use. Now Skyscape has brought their vast selection of titles to the iPhone.


They have done it by making a free portal application My Skyscape available on iTunes. Enter your Skyscape account info and you can then download purchased titles to your iPhone or iPod Touch. They are also giving away some basic titles including their Archimedes medical formula and reference guide.

The current titles appear to follow the basic layout of the Palm OS titles but with some size changes to take advantage of the iPhone's larger screen. Control is easy with a finger and it is a pleasure not to use a stylus.

I tried to buy a title but the app would not let me register. A Skyscape support person tells me it will be one to two weeks before titles will be able to be downloaded. In the meantime you can access the web-based version of purchased titles.

Skyscape has drawn first blood in the medical reference wars. The creation of a portal removes the hassle for Skyscape of putting each title on iTunes. It also lets them keep their subscription model. The portal also lets you keep all your titles under one home page icon. So go ahead and try it, just remember you'll need to wait a bit until you can buy new titles.

For nurse educators the availability of the Skyscape library really makes the iPod Touch the handheld computer to consider first. The ease of installation, use of iTunes for synchronization, and the ability to wirelessly install applications opens a new day in the use of handheld computers in clinical nursing education.

October 4, 2008

The Handheld Computer to Beat for Nurses: Apple iPod Touch

Apple has updated the iPod Touch , adding a speaker, improving battery life, and allowing the addition of third party applications. All at a lower price. An 8 GB Touch is now $229 making it a better bargain than any Palm OS or Windows Mobile device. The ability to show video, browse the Internet with a full-fledged browser, and use healthcare-related applications make it more versatile than any previous handheld.

The iTunes App Store has thousands of applications. The number of useful healthcare apps is still small but growing quickly. Expect to see the classic reference titles for sale soon.

For nurse educators considering which handheld to recommend to students, the iPod Touch must be seriously considered. It provides a powerful computer that will serve students well past graduation. The fact that it is also an iPod only helps make it an easier sale to students.

August 21, 2008

Can nursing students communicate?

This is a little off-track for this blog but I have to ask, can nursing students communicate in writing anymore?


I ask this because I had been contributing to a student nurses forum on technology. One contributer said he did not believe nursing students should be required to buy PDAs. I responded generally about their benefits. I also sent a personal message asking for his rationale. Here is his response exactly as written:

i am a student whose instructor would always tell me the recall of material is better if one has to reachit, write the flas card and then read the information the reptition would help with the memory process. the PDA is great buy how many student actually know the material by heart after access online

It took me awhile to even figure out what this says. I eventually figured out it is the tired idea that we can memorize everything we need to know, and that somehow using a reference resource is cheating. But the bigger question is how will this student function as a professional nurse?

While many schools have students write term papers, who often to educators require students to present cogent written paragraphs? Is this example typical of many nursing students? If so, I would like to hear how we can help our future nurses demonstrate their ability to communicate in writing?

July 26, 2008

Word of warning before buying iPod Touch or iPhone applications

If you have seen my previous posts about the possibilities for nursing educators with new iPhone and iPod Touch firmware, I want to give you a word of caution. Some publishers are currently advertising for sale iPhone/iPod Touch applications, but they may have one big shortcoming--they only work with wireless access to a network. These applications are essentially web browsers that get their data from an online server. They work fine but only if you have WiFi access (or data service on the iPhone).

As of today, only Epocrates Rx has a database that resides on the device. My best advice is to buy references when they are for sale on the iTunes App Store. That is your only assurance that the applications will work for your students wherever they are.

July 18, 2008

iPod Touch and iPhone now more useful to Nurse Educators

With the release of Firmware 2.0 for the iPod Touch and iPhone nurse educators now have new device to consider for practice and education. Right now the only healthcare application of widespread use is the Epocrates Rx application. This free application works great, updates easily, and has the best interface I've ever seen. You will need to first update iTunes to version 7.7 to access the link.

In the coming months, many new applications will be available. Nurse educators really need to look closely at the iPod Touch as a recommended tool for practice and education.
We will post more on how to use this new device in nursing education in upcoming posts.

June 12, 2008

NLN Simulation Resource Center

NLN has opened the Simulation Innovation Resource Center (SIRC) for nurse educators to learn how to use simulation to promote and evaluate student learning, and communicate with simulation experts and one another on simulation in nursing education issues.
Some of its features are:
  • Nine online courses with interactive exercises and video clips of simulation scenarios and interactive programs
  • Public forums where faculty can share information about and their experiences with simulation
  • A resource center offering information on funding opportunities, a directory of simulation researchers, venders of products used for simulation, and a list of simulation centers
  • An annotated bibliography of simulation-related articles
  • An events calendar detailing simulation-related professional gatherings, including academic conferences and trade shows
  • Simulation news — announcements, bulletins, updates, noteworthy events worldwide affecting the simulation community

May 3, 2008

Proposed: A Nursing Simulation Specialist

Simulation has always been a part of nursing education. Technical skills have been practiced on models for as long as there have been nursing schools. Newer models have computer-controlled simulation of breathing and circulation. They also have more life-like skin, wounds, and orifices. These simulators are widely praised for helping practice critical care experiences such as cardiac arrest, intubation, or respiratory failure. What seems to be lost is discussion on where these tools fit into nursing education, and how they should best be used. Many schools are seeking funding to buy simulators for US$50K and up; but much simulation can be done at no cost for machinery. 


The heart of nursing practice is interpersonal communication. That communication includes collecting data, interpretation of the data, and confirmation of your conclusions. Simulating these situations in complex and costly in development, but not in implementation. Also, many technical skills can be taught using simpler, more specialized models which may or may not have computer control.

Nurse educators must think beyond just buying a fancy human-sized, computer-controlled, life-like model. We need to think of how simulation of real life can help students learn both the physical and psychosocial aspects of nursing care in situations that need practice. We need to think of how and when simulation is best for learning, without getting over-enamored with the technology of simulation. 

What we need are nursing simulation specialists who can specialize in the creation and pedagogical research of how to best use simulators in nursing education.

April 26, 2008

Personal Response Systems

I've been using a Personal Response System in my classes. Students have a remote control in which they respond to multiple choice questions I periodically display during a lecture. Students vote anonymously and then I show the answer. It really seems to help students realize what facts were important, and a chance to practice application of what they just learned. We chose a system sold by Turning Point Technologies and it has worked well. They advertise that you can create slides on the fly, but I do not recommend it. I suggest planning questions that illustrate the most important concepts from your class. Students will then not be able to say they did not know what you wanted them to know.

March 9, 2008

Ask and ye shall receive

Just last month I called for applications for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Last week Apple released its beta SDK for the iPhone and iPod Touch. You can view the presentation of the new SDK and some applications that were created in less than two weeks.

The presentation includes a demonstration from ePocrates of a drug guide and pill identifier running on an iPhone. This is exactly the type of application I was calling for in my last blog.

Now that the SDK is out there we need folks who know programming and nursing (there must be some out there) to begin development. The Apple Application Store will be available by late June. It looks like a great way to distribute applications and make some money for developers. Any takers?

February 27, 2008

iPod Touch as Handheld Clinical Computer

I have been a big proponent of using handheld computers in the clinical setting. They are a tool that not only provides up to date information but also teaches students to think about how they use information in their practice. Unfortunately, handheld computers that use healthcare-related software have not kept up with the rest of the computer hardware world. Both Palm and Windows mobile handhelds have been slow to be updated. As educators asking students to invest in hardware for clinical use it is becoming harder to justify the expense for increasingly outdated hardware.

In 2007 Apple introduced the iPhone and iPod Touch. Both have Wi-Fi Internet access, web browsers, address books, and calendars. They also have a large bright screen, a unique keyboardless touch interface, a user-friendly synchronization with a desktop computer, and a palm-sized form factor.

Skyscape has already introduced several titles for use with the iPhone. The downside is that a $60/month phone contract is required as the data resides on a server.

The good news is that Apple will soon be releasing a software development kit that will allow PDA software writers to port health-care software to the iPod Touch and iPhone. This is exciting because the bright, clear screen, and intuitive interface will be ideal for clinical software. Additionally, the ability to work as an iPod player of audio and video makes the device more useful students outside the classroom or clinical site.

I am now calling on all healthcare-related PDA software designers to work on porting their titles to the iPod Touch and iPhone as soon as the SDK is available.