December 5, 2011

Nursing graduate competencies in technology in 2012

While it's obvious our graduates are entering a practice world that increasingly uses technology, it is less clear how students are being prepared for such practice. Nearly all nursing faculty had their basic education at a time without desktop computers, electronic health records, and handheld computers. Faculty are expected to have clinical expertise in their specialty but how many nursing schools expect their faculty to have technological expertise? Most faculty develop their skills through experiences in their clinical sites or by attending conferences, but is that enough?


Accrediting agencies at both the nursing level and the general higher education level are expecting graduates to have skills in technology. Nursing has a long history of constant revision with curriculum. You curriculum revisions of 2012 need to focus on these areas:
1. What are the expected technology competencies of our graduates?
2. Are our faculty prepared to teach students how to use these technologies?

The answers to those questions will require debate, a commitment to financial resources, and faculty development. Those questions will not be quickly answered. It will take a great deal of short and long term planning. What is your department doing to answer these questions?

November 27, 2011

4 Gift Ideas for Nursing Students this Holiday Season

Nursing educators are heading into the final days of the fall semester at most schools. I like to give my students gift ideas that they could use to make their student lives easier. I suggest they pass them on to their parents and relatives. Here are my top 3 suggestion for the 2011 holiday season:

1. Monochrome Laser Printer: So many students tell me their printer is broken or out of ink, or that the school's printer is broken or being used by too many others. A black and white laser printer can be had for under $100. Even though toner cartridges cost around $60 students fail to realize that the cost per pages is only pennies, print quality is superior to inkjet, they're fast, and the toner never goes dry like an inkjet cartridge.

2. Apple iPod Touch: At $200 this is a great tool for students. No monthly fees, hundreds of healthcare applications (with many of them free), and lots of other non-academic uses including a camera, calendar, calculator, and iPod make it the best deal in the electronics store.

3. Apple iPad 2: If their parents have a bigger budget the iPad WiFi has all the benefits of the Touch and works well as an e-reader. The 3G model has monthly fees to access the Internet but has no contract.

4. All those too rich for your blood? How about a LED Penlight? They are very bright and last hours longer than the old-fashioned lights. They start around $7.

I hope you all have a good end of the semester. Stay calm. It will be all over soon.

November 15, 2011

Is the Amazon Kindle Fire useful to nursing educators?

This week Amazon releases its latest member of the Kindle e-reader family, the Kindle Fire. On its surface it looks like smaller (7" vs 10") and cheaper ($200 vs $500) Apple iPad but there are differences that nursing educators need to consider.

First, some details about the Fire. It is tablet computer running an Amazon version of the Android operating system. It's primary purpose is to connect with the Amazon universe of books and shopping. It also has a web browser, an e-mail reader, and built-in links to Amazon's Android App Store. Early reports are that it does these things well and has an easy-to-read screen not unlike the iPad's. Unlike the iPad, the Fire has no Bluetooth, microphone, camera, or GPS. The Fire also has no automatic ability to read PDF files unless you first e-mail them to the device.

For nursing educators the Fire still may be an option. Before committing to the Fire be sure that the applications you want are available. While many Android healthcare apps are available many are not yet on the Amazon App Store. There are also far fewer healthcare apps for Android than for the iOS devices (i.e., iPhone, iPad, & iPod Touch). This means more support issue for faculty who are want students to get specific applications. To me, the inability to directly read PDF files is also a killer. Getting students to e-mail themselves a PDF you've assigned seems like a tech support nightmare.

So the Fire may have some specific applications for educators, and its price is attractive, but its limitations seem too great for use in a nursing classroom or clinical setting.

November 8, 2011

5 Tips for Poster Presenters

I just got back from a conference and enjoyed many of the posters but I also was frustrated that so many educators fail to meet the needs of their audience. Here are some tips:

1. Minimize the text, Maximize the images. Why are so many posters practically a copy of their manuscript? Pick out the most important points and print only those. Use images, flowcharts, or charts to illustrate concepts. I should be able to tell what you did in a few seconds, remember there are lots of other posters I have yet to see.

2. Provide a handout with more detail. You're frustrated that you have so little on the poster? Make copies of the detailed description of your presentation. Use a small font and two columns and you can fit all the text onto one page.

3. Give clear contact information. Put your more than your name on the poster. Give us your email address so we can contact you for more information later. Put contact information on your handouts too.

4. Put the title of your study on a sticker and put it on the back of your business cards. If you want more people interested in your work a business card is great, but when I get home how will I remember what you did? If I have the title on the back of your business card I will remember what you did and know how to get in touch with you.

5. When you are standing by the poster during the poster session, engage those who walk by. The purpose of a research conference is to share research. This is not the time to avoid eye contact with people walking by. We all came from far distances to be there, engage us with some small talk, ask about our interests. We both may learn something.

April 4, 2011

The iPad at 1 year old: Its Effect on Nursing Education

The Apple iPad was released a year ago today. I waited in a line and bought one sight unseen. In that time it has changed the computing in ways that are well documented. It is, as Steve Jobs described, a Post-PC device. Its ability to bring multimedia to your hand in a small form factor but with a large screen and a touch interface brought new opportunities to nurse educators. So where do we stand a year later?

As of today the App Store lists 1001 paid and 435 free iPad apps in their Medical category. Also keep in mind that nearly all the other thousands of apps written for the iPod Touch and iPhone will also run on the iPad (although in a enlarged display of the iPhone screen). Just as in the early days of the Palm handheld computers the majority of apps are geared to physicians, although many can be of interest to nursing students. For example, there are many apps to help learn anatomy. The iPad is particularly well suited to this with its big bright screen.

A search of "nursing" in the iPad Medical category shows 37 applications. The modal type in this list are NCLEX-RN preparation apps. Also available are some reference texts such as dictionaries. Among the major nursing suite apps none have been released for the iPad yet. It is a big investment for organizations such as Skyscape and Unbound Medicine to expand into the iPad market, and it is a scary prospect for them when there is little evidence of many nursing schools requiring an iPad. This chicken and egg dilemma has been at the heart of every technological advance.

Another area I am waiting for is the availability of nursing textbooks in iBooks form. This will be the "killer app" for the iPad in nursing education. My students tell me if they would love to carry all their books in an iPad. One of the biggest hassles of being a nursing student is the nearly one hundred pounds of textbooks they need to study. Being able to take their books to any place on campus and to the clinical area would be a big advance.

Keep in mind that the iPad is currently great at viewing pdf files in the iBooks app. I have been distributing my handouts in pdf form. They can be viewed on many platforms but the iPad is a great way to carry and read them.

So one year later the iPad has yet to fulfill its promise for nursing education but things are improving. The availability of the second generation, greater awareness of what the iPad can do, and the availability of thousands of apps that didn't even exist a year ago point to a bright future.

April 1, 2011

Educational Technology is expensive, but can we afford NOT to use it?

I have been talking with nurse educators for years about different technologies that enhance learning. In the 1980s just having access to a computer was considered an achievement. Later I spoke about the uses of applications such as PowerPoint and how they helped organize a lecture. In the 1990s we talked about the coming of the Internet and how we could use it in nursing education. At all these phases there was always the complaint that it was 1) too expensive for the nursing school, 2) too expensive for students to buy, and 3) was not necessary because the old way of teaching was just fine. In all those cases the arguments were forgotten and now the technologies are considered a required part of nursing education.

Today I hear the same arguments about the use of handheld technologies; and my answer is the same. If the technologies have advantages over the old methods, and can help us create better nurses, then we can't afford not use the new tools.

Of course the reality is that money can be scarce with a nursing department, students will complain about spending anything on their education, and faculty are reluctant to spend money on new technology for themselves. Here are some points to consider:

1. Education is, and has always, been expensive. I am sure many nursing faculty reading this feel they are paid less than they are worth. Does anyone think that if we hired cheaper but less qualified faculty that the quality of the graduate would improve? There is an expression "you get what you pay for". If faculty sit still and not incorporate technologies that would improve the quality of the graduate then we will get what we pay for.

2. Students will always complain about spending money. Nursing textbooks cost thousands of dollars over the course of a curriculum but we don't tell students "that's OK, these books are optional". All of the healthcare-related reference texts are available in electronic form. If it is to the students' advantage to have the references wherever they are clinically then we should not feel bad about complaints of having to buy an iPod Touch to carry them.

3. Commitment to spending has to come from the top. Nursing schools that have most successfully incorporated technologies such as high-fidelity simulation or handheld computers had administrators who were committed to using the technologies. It takes administration support to help find the financing, commit a portion of the budget to such spending, and bring the more reluctant faculty along into new ways of teaching.

In upcoming blogs I will discuss some ways to pragmatically address these points in nursing education. I welcome your opinions.

March 28, 2011

3 Reasons Nurse Educators should require iPads and iPod Touch devices

A commenter to an older post just asked a very good question about the cost of incorporating devices such as an Apple iPad into nursing education. So is it a good idea to add an additional expense to nursing education by requiring the use of a handheld device such as an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad? This is a question I hear a lot when speaking about the advantages of these technologies. Here is why I think it is worth it to have students use these technologies today:

1. They change the way students learn and apply information. Traditionally students learned nursing by buying textbooks, listening to lectures, and taking a multiple-choice exam. Moving to a handheld delivery system is not just making books available in electronic form. The change brings a change to the way students learn. In the classroom the teacher can move from presenting facts to giving lessons on how to apply knowledge. There is too much information to know it all but knowing how to find and use information quickly is really what nurses need to do in the 21st Century.

2. They provide a media delivery device directly to the student. Currently most students have to go to a library or a computer lab to view media that contribute to their learning. For example, to learn a procedure students once had to view a film strip or 16 mm film, later they watched a video tape or DVD. With a handheld device the video can be viewed wherever the student is. Right now there are nursing programs developing mini-videos of procedures that students can review just before going into a client's room.

3. They help faculty use proven pedagogies to improve learning. Educators have known for years that multi-media enhances learning. Steve Jobs calls the iPad a "post-PC" device. It gives students the ability to have audio, video, web-based apps, and clinical apps all in one device. This means that it is more than just a portable media delivery system but a whole new way to teach students how to use information p.r.n.

March 3, 2011

Apple iPad 2 Digital AV Adapter biggest advance for educators

The announcement of the iPad 2 brought improvements in speed and weight and adds cameras. Those are great but lost in most accounts is the biggest feature for nurse educators, the ability to display apps on an external display. Apple is now offering a Digital AV Adapter for $39. On the iPad 2 this adapter creates a mirror output of the iPad's screen on a flat screen TV that has HDMI. This is a huge step for educators because now all apps can be shown to a classroom in real time on a real iOS device. Nurse educators can teach how to use clinical software in a way never before possible. Up until now only applications with the external-output code could be displayed. Faculty can now walk students through the options of their clinical applications.

Apple Digital AV Adapter


This adapter is not just for the new iPad. It will work with the iPod Touch 4th generation, the iPhone 4, and the original iPad (in 720p not 1080i).

Some caveats: The mirroring capability will only work with the new iPad 2. It is not yet clear what can be displayed on the other devices (my guess is just software with the external-output code). You will also need either an HDMI display or a way to convert your HDMI signal to DVI or VGA. DVI, which is used by most modern computer monitors can be displayed with a simple converter/adapter. To use VGA, which most projection LCDs use, requires an additional adapter such as the one available from HP. The reason for the HDMI requirement is due to the ability of HDMI to retain copy protection for videos.

Apple is promoting the iPad as a tool for educators at all levels. The AV adapter will really help nurse educators teach students how to use any of the hundreds of healthcare-related apps that are available for the iPhone and iPad. The adapter should be available on March 11 in the USA.