To be a nurse, one must possess many different skills, with clinical judgment –the ability to think critically and make quick decisions that impact patient outcomes – being one of the most important. Another increasingly important skill is technology literacy, or the ability to use, understand and manage technology. Elsevier’s recent Clinician of the Future report found that 53% of U.S. nurses believe that technology literacy will become their most valuable capability over the next ten years, ranking higher than clinical knowledge.
The report also found that 54% of U.S. nurses predict they will draw on tools utilizing artificial intelligence to inform most of their clinical decisions. However, 69% of U.S.-based nurses report being overwhelmed with the current volume of data available and 84% of nurses in the U.S. predict the widespread use of digital health technologies will represent an even more challenging burden in the future. Despite these concerns, 59% of nurses in the U.S. still agree that the widespread use of digital health technology will enable a positive transformation of healthcare.
While use of technology in the healthcare setting is not without challenges, I believe it has a net positive benefit, particularly providing nurses with tools and information to enable rapid critical thinking and sound clinical judgment in patient care. I propose three ways higher-education institutions and health systems can maximize technology throughout a nurse’s career.
Utilize Education Technology (EdTech) Solutions
A nurse’s career journey begins in the classroom, and it’s during this time they develop the foundation for clinical judgment and critical thinking they will use throughout their careers. New and emerging forms of educational technology solutions, such as simulation-based and virtual-reality (VR) scenarios are providing students with an immersive way to learn skills in a safe and standardized environment. In these realistic patient scenarios that integrate the latest evidence-based research and education content, nurses can build confidence through practice on digital patients in a virtual environment that encourages exploration, adaptation and the development of critical reasoning skills.
Shadow Health, a suite of simulation learning products, features a diverse patient set representing various backgrounds with different health concerns. This conversation-based solution allows students to respond to many patient scenarios, while developing clinical judgment skills and practicing therapeutic communication. These innovative forms of education technology are already having a profound impact on how students absorb information. A recent study on the efficiency of patient care skills for nursing students in programs that use Shadow Health found that 82% of learners showed an increase in overall efficiency and 68% were better equipped to identify the number of correct care plan components.
Make the Transition to Practice Easier
As nurses make the transition from nursing school to practice, they are entering an increasingly demanding and complex environment. In addition to patient care responsibilities and keeping up with evolving care guidelines, nurses must also update electronic health records (EHRs) and handle time-consuming administrative work. These stressors can result in high turnover rates, with some hospitals seeing novice nurse turnover as high as 35%.
Learning how to balance these responsibilities can be overwhelming and may be contributing to more patient-related errors for new nurses. According to research from the National Library of Medicine and The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 40% of new graduate nurses reported making medication errors, and 50% reported missing signs of life-threatening conditions. The industry can better support nurses and ensure they are always practice-ready by providing technology solutions.
Providing novice nurses in a hospital setting with simple-to-use tech-based reference and communication tools enables safe, practice-based development of their patient care competency. Nurses can rely on these resources when they have questions or are unsure of procedures, supporting the ongoing development of their critical thinking skills and reducing patient care errors.
Provide Continued Professional Development on Digital Health Technology
While a nurse’s journey begins in the classroom, ongoing education remains critical throughout their career. The Clinician of the Future report found that 79% of U.S. nurses believe that training and ongoing education needs to be overhauled so they can keep pace with technological advancements. While resident nurses may have been exposed to emerging forms of technology during nursing school and are more comfortable with digital solutions, nurses who have been in-practice for decades may not be as comfortable using unfamiliar technologies.
Healthcare leaders must identify where nurses need the most support and provide continued professional development to ensure nurses at all levels are comfortable using digital health technologies. Hospitals, health systems and nursing organizations can provide solutions for nurses throughout their careers to enable technological proficiency and support critical thinking during patient care. These resources ensure nurses have access to the latest guidelines and evidence-based treatment pathways, empowering them to make more informed, confident decisions and driving better patient results.
At the same time, it is crucial for leaders to be thoughtful about the technologies they are considering deploying and to take the time to understand the benefits of any solution under consideration. A study published in the Western Journal of Nursing Research found that the use of telehealth to manage certain diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes and hypertension actually worsened nurses’ workloads and led to twice as many activities completed by nurses. To gauge the impact new technologies will have on nurses, administrators may want to consider issuing employee surveys or informally gathering feedback, which is also a great way to show nurses that their voices matter in choices being made by the organization.
The last few years have shown us that nurses are invaluable to the healthcare industry, and it’s imperative that we provide them with tools for success throughout their entire career. Technology is going to continue to play a major role in healthcare. Healthcare leaders and educational institutions can use technology to their advantage, but they must provide current and future nurses with development opportunities to enhance their technology skills.
Crooks has published a paper, titled “The Impact of COVID-19 Among Black Girls: A Social-Ecological Perspective,” in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology, reporting on the findings of a qualitative study that featured interviews with 25 Black girls—ages 9 to 18—from December 2020 to April 2021. Most participants reported significant psychological and physical consequences, including depression and anxiety, disrupted eating, distorted body image, and changes in self-esteem.
“Black girls are a very vulnerable and unprotected population, especially within the context of COVID,” Crooks says. “I thought it was a really critical question to be asking youth: How has this impacted their perceptions of self?”
Black girls are particularly vulnerable because they enter puberty and develop secondary sex characteristics earlier than their non-Black peers, according to the paper, causing them to suffer from “adultification” and “sexualization by society.” This can lead to elevated sexual and mental health risks.
Crooks found that only two of the girls in the study received any formal sexual education during the pandemic, as schools opted to delay teaching sex education during online learning due to the sensitive nature of the topic.
“Missing such a critical component of education was alarming to me,” she says. “This is a critical period in their life. Just because the world stops, doesn’t mean their bodies stop growing and evolving.”
Social media also played an outsized role in the girls’ lives as they found themselves isolated from peers during quarantine. Some girls struggled with body image issues and eating disorders, Crooks says.
“They were sitting in their houses watching TV, or they were on social media sites like Instagram or Tik Tok, so they were constantly exposed to overly-sexualized, unrealistic expectations for what their bodies are supposed to look like,” Crooks says.
Conversely, a majority of the participants said the isolation and reduction in peer interactions allowed them to engage in emotional healing and self-discovery, independent from peer pressure.
The pandemic also intersected with the Black Lives Matters movement. As the participants increasingly turned to media in lieu of social interactions, they saw mistreatment of Black people by police, including the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, nationally broadcasted. These messages led to mixed feelings among the participants.
“A lot of what the girls talked about was feeling empowered to be Black and having a sense of pride within their identities,” Crooks says. “On the other hand, there was fear that came with color of their skin – fear of being harmed themselves, or their fathers, brothers or other family members being hurt. There was this constant fear and threat to Black families.”
Crooks says her research shows the need for more school-based programming to bridge the gap in sexual health education in schools, as well as the need for family interventions to instill protective strategies in Black girls to help them be prepared to handle threatening situations.
Higher education is evolving. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, distance education in master’s nursing programs has been steadily rising since 2015, offering improved access, flexibility, and student advancement. In fact, a recent survey reports that a primary target demographic for online programs is adults returning to school.
Distance education opens opportunities for non-traditional students to advance their careers under different circumstances. A recent report by Deloitte showed that 26% of higher education students hold full-time jobs while attending school, and 44% are 24 or older. A virtual learning experience is a good fit for professionals juggling work and home responsibilities along with their post-graduate education.
A roundup of data on higher learning noted that, among graduate students in the United States, 52% felt their online courses were a “better learning experience” than their onsite classes. The flexibility of online learning accommodates the schedules of busy professionals, while the constant technological evolution of distance learning provides a more customizable experience than traditional classroom learning.
Early distance education was similar to the one-dimensional lecture style of in-person learning. From the original mail-based correspondence courses and televised classes to the first fully online degree programs in 1989, the concept largely remained the same—you read, watched, or listened to an educator lecture.
This model may be familiar, but it’s an inflexible learning environment that is only optimal for some students, while others struggle to adapt their learning needs to fit. In recent years, this approach has begun to evolve, leveraging more innovations in technology.
The Harvard Business Review reports that colleges allocate only 5% of their budget to IT, but that is expected to quickly change. Global impact intelligence platform HolonIQ predicts that EdTech venture capital will nearly triple over the next decade.
As distance education shifts from simple remote learning to next-generation technologies and as non-traditional students become the new normal, it’s time to set aside the old one-dimensional learning tools and engage your graduate students in a learning experience that empowers them to reach their next-level goals.
Digital Test Prep Is the Next Step
The growing momentum in the digital learning environment has created new ways to reach different types of learners. Online learning has gone from static to interactive, using innovations such as virtual simulations, virtual and augmented reality, mobile devices, and cloud technology.
As education evolves with technology, educators are finding modern ways to adapt the one-size-fits-all lecture style to accommodate different learning needs.
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Evidence-based practice is at the heart of nursing—and most of that evidence is based on quantitative research. For nurses who are merely competent in math, though, interpreting the numbers can be a challenge. And if your own facility with statistics is middling, trying to mentor semi-numerate DNP students may leave you feeling helpless at times.
Help is on the way. On May 19, data analysis expert James Lani, Ph.D., MS is hosting a free webinar specifically aimed at faculty members who mentor graduate students for dissertation, thesis, or scholarly projects and are seeking to take their command of statistics to the next level to better guide those students.
Dr. Lani, the CEO of Intellectus Statistics, has been helping faculty and graduate students with their quantitative research for over two decades.
In his upcoming webinar session, Dr. Lani will use mock data to work through faculty and students’ research questions, prepare and graph data, select and conduct the correct statistical analyses, and demonstrate how to appropriately present results. He will also cover sample size and power analysis, data management, and visualization techniques, and at the end of the presentation, he can even provide faculty with project-specific help.
James Lani holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, an MS in Psychology with an emphasis in Experimental Methods from California State University Long Beach, a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, and minors in Mathematics and Human Services from California State University, Fullerton.
Who can attend: Faculty members in nursing, social work, counseling, public health, psychology, and health administration at any stage of their research or faculty who mentor students’ research as they pursue their degree (i.e., Dissertations, DNP Project for Nurses, Fieldwork and Supervision for Behavior Analysts, etc.)
The famous biblical verse, “To whom much is given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48) is more than a quote for Constance Smith Hendricks, PhD, RN, FAAN. For the influential University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing alumna (BSN 1974, MSN 1981), it is a mantra to live by.
With more than 40 years of trailblazing experience educating, mentoring and inspiring students who want to fulfill their dreams and become leaders in nursing and health care, Hendricks has blazed a trail on another front as the first African American to establish an endowed scholarship in the UAB School of Nursing.
“I had the privilege of doors being open for me growing up,” Hendricks said. “I want to give students a chance to reach their full potential and have access to higher education, much like I have.”
Hendricks has been a “first” and “only” at almost every step of her career. After earning her BSN and MSN from the UAB School of Nursing, she was hired by Auburn University’s School of Nursing as an instructor in community health nursing, where she was the only African American faculty member. She then followed that up with a milestone only she can say she’s accomplished.
“Going to Boston College in 1989 and being the first African American to graduate from their prestigious PhD program in 1992 was a tremendous honor and a life-changing event for me,” Hendricks said. “I hope my continued efforts have inspired the next generation of students and show them that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible.”
Hendricks has devoted her career to developing quality nursing programs at universities across the southeast and even in her hometown of Selma, Alabama. She was dean of the School of Nursing and Allied Health at Tuskegee University, a professor (now emerita) and the Charles W. Barkley Endowed Professor at Auburn University, dean of the Hampton University School of Nursing, developed the DNP Program at Kentucky State University, implemented the first Doctor of Philosophy nursing program in the state of Louisiana at Southern University and A&M College and founding dean of Nursing and Allied Health at Concordia College Alabama in Selma.
Recently Hendricks, along with her friends, have been working on a book, “Alabama’s Notable Nurses,” that recognizes notable nurses in the state of Alabama.
“We are shining a light on nurses who have been in the field for at least 35 years or more and may not necessarily get the recognition they deserve because they are in a smaller county in Alabama,” said Hendricks.
Having spent her career “truly on the front lines making a difference,” Gloria McNeal, PhD, MSN, ACNS-BC, FAAN, will receive an AACN Pioneering Spirit Award at the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) 2022 National Teaching Institute & Critical Care Exposition in Houston, May 16-18.
McNeal’s award recognizes her efforts to bring healthcare directly to those most in need and introduce telehealth and remote monitoring to critical care. The AACN Pioneering Spirit Award, one of AACN’s Visionary Leadership awards, recognizes significant contributions that influence progressive and critical care nursing and relate to the association’s mission, vision and values.
The health equity trailblazer is associate vice president for community affairs in health at National University headquartered in San Diego, the flagship institution of the National University System, which comprises three nonprofit universities serving more than 45,000 students nationwide, both on-site and online. In this role, she leads the university’s comprehensive community and global outreach strategies efforts related to healthcare services and education. She previously served as dean for the university’s School of Health and Human Services for six years.
“Dr. McNeal has a passion for healthcare and serving those who are underserved,” said AACN President Beth Wathen. “Her community service efforts and nurse-led clinic model sponsored by the university bring healthcare directly to those most in need. She is truly on the front lines making a difference.”
At National University, McNeal has worked with community-based organizations to establish nurse-managed clinics at churches, community centers and shelters in South Los Angeles. The initiative was expanded to offer telehealth services for patient-provider interactions that do not require in-person visits.
Among her academic appointments, she has held the administrative positions of director, assistant dean, associate dean, dean and founding dean at various research-intensive public and private universities. As dean, McNeal has led several academic nursing programs on their journey to acquire national accreditation for both graduate and undergraduate curricula of study.
Her interprofessional, nurse-led and other projects, totaling more than $12 million in extramural funding, have been continuously funded for over 20 years. She currently serves as project director for the Health Resources and Services Administration Nurse Education, Practice, Quality and Retention (NEPQR) Simulation Education Training (SET) Program, a highly competitive grant-funded project initially awarded to a cohort of only five nursing programs nationwide. With this latest project, she is spearheading the use of virtual reality and immersive technologies to better prepare nursing students to practice in real-world settings through simulation.
Developing the protocols of care, she helped lead the transition of critical care nursing practice beyond the traditional walls of the intensive care unit, and was among the first to publish work on the remote monitoring and electronic transmission of ambulatory electrocardiographic data, revolutionizing the manner by which critical care nurses could remotely monitor their patients.
As a result of her work, she was invited to author “AACN Guide to Acute Care Procedures in the Home,” which describes over 100 complex nursing home-care procedures written in collaboration with 20 nursing expert contributors.
Her nursing career began as a critical care nurse in the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps at Philadelphia Naval Hospital, where she received two medals of commendation and three promotions leading to the rank of Lieutenant.
She obtained her bachelor’s degree from Villanova University Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, where she currently sits on the Board of Consultors, and her master’s degree at University of Pennsylvania (Penn) School of Nursing, later receiving the Outstanding Alumna Award. She returned to Penn for doctoral studies in the Graduate School of Education. For her PhD, which was awarded with meritorious distinction, she investigated the scholarly productivity of minority nurse academicians.
The American Academy of Nursing awarded her the coveted Media Award in 1994, inducted her into the Academy in 2006, and most recently named her a 2020 Edge Runner Award recipient.
She served as an invited co-contributor for the IOM (now National Academy of Medicine [NAM]) text on “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change Advancing Health” and is a featured speaker for the current NAM podcast on “The Future of Nursing 2020-2030,” Episode 2 – Health Equity.