Technology can manage many of the unmet needs that nursing faculties have when it comes to teaching the next generation of students. These innovations include services, processes and products that solve a pressing problem or make life easier, both for the people who are teaching and those who are there to learn. In a post-pandemic world, where medical professionals are still in short supply, nursing programs need to be flexible. Many are delivered online and adapt to the needs of their students by offering more programs that include remote or hybrid study.

Combining theory and practice

As these courses continue to be developed and refined, learning solutions must follow their lead by being sustainable and effective in the classroom, as well as in a virtual environment. Some programs try to separate the concepts of preparedness and judgement, but technology can close the gap between study and experience. This ensures that nurses are better prepared for practical work on a ward and have a solid knowledge base. Once we understand the needs of modern nursing students and the faculties that are teaching them, we can begin to see why some solutions are worth investing in. Below, we take a closer look at some of the best.

Nurse simulation training offers a safe route to preparedness 

Many of the country’s top universities now offer nurse simulation training as part of their medical offering. At Walsh University, for instance, the MSN Nurse Educator program prepares experienced nurses for work in an educational environment, and the course can be completed online in just eight weeks. Graduates will gain a deep understanding of how mannequins, e-learning and task simulators can broaden the knowledge of trainees and prepare them for real-world experiences.

Training for all healthcare professionals

On undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as professional development courses, nursing simulation can educate and train clinicians. It does so without risking patient safety and without the need for real-world volunteers. Unlike traditional teaching methods, which blend classroom learning with periods of bedside care, simulations put students in the driving seat more often. They give students the chance to practice their responses to a range of situations, and then reflect on how they performed and what they could do better in future. This allows students to change their behavior and learn in a secure, managed environment. Simulations are particularly useful for practicing medical events that require a rapid response, of individuals and a larger team. They allow nurses to work on their soft skills, such as interacting with others effectively and communicating with more than one person.

Nursing simulations are often played out using a script that features the learning outcomes. Supervisors or teachers will monitor the actions of each student, observe how they interact with the mannequin or another simulator, and consider how they have performed. To ensure that students get the most out of each simulation, they will be briefed beforehand so that they have an idea of what to expect and can carry out some preparation. The scenario is played out in a way that replicates the clinical setting closely so that learners see how the equipment they have been studying will be operated on a ward. Finally, students are debriefed on the simulation and given the chance to reflect on how they did and ways that they might improve.

Experiencing a digital ward through virtual reality

Virtual reality (VR) as several therapeutic uses, but VR simulations can also replicate scenarios for use in training. Using a headset, the nurse interacts with an immersive 3D scenario that includes voice recognition, motion sensors and other interfaces, such as a keyboard. Once they are ready to begin, trainees enter a virtual hospital or clinic and select a range of scenarios to work through. Rather than focus on a single event, VR encourages students to move between different rooms and speak with multiple patients. There is a chance to check the medical history of individuals on the ward, perform a basic examination and look for signs that may cause concern.

VR is an accessible route to clinical excellence

Students can measure a patient’s heartrate and take their blood pressure, but as there are many people to care for, they have to do so with a sense of urgency. In this way, VR can create a more realistic experience of working in a busy department. By mimicking real-life practices, students are taught to strengthen their decision-making, improve their clinical judgements and prioritize patients. Everyday occurrences, such as talkative patients and colleagues interrupting to request help, are included to make the virtual setting more authentic. Unlike a standard simulation, VR is highly accessible and can be moved between many different learning environments. Even without access to a medical environment, VR can go some way to preparing nurses for practice by giving them examples of events and situations that could occur when they are on a ward.

Assessments and reflection through video software

Video assessment software has a number of benefits. Primarily, it is used to capture and upload details of training and simulations. These recordings can then be used to carry out various forms of video-assisted work. Students can view their own reactions, understand how their behavior influenced the outcome of the exercise, and get fair feedback. Video as a medium is objective, and provides clear, visible evidence of a student’s competencies.

Understanding a nurse’s strengths and weaknesses

Video capture can also be used by students who are practicing techniques at home, or in study groups. They can record their work and then show it to a faculty member to receive feedback on what they are doing well and what could be improved. As well as recording, students can annotate their videos and use them for self-reflective practices. This helps them to link what they are studying in a classroom environment with their practical experiences and their learning journey. With an objective view of their progress, it is easier to identify gaps in their medical knowledge that could be filled with the right reading and research. This sets up students for a career in which they operate as self-reflecting practitioners, willing to refine their skills, consider their actions and bring their work into line with best-practice standards.

Recording experiences and outcomes using an ePortfolio

ePortfolios are digital versions of a standard portfolio that are used by trainee and graduate nurses. Through ePortfolios, they are able to articulate the professional achievements they have reached and give evidence of their skills. Professional medical training is difficult, especially now when so many students are juggling work with their academic commitments. A portfolio makes it easier for them to bring together and curate all the experiences they have had, their academic certifications and their practical competencies. Furthermore, as a digital resource can be modified and updated as required, they can be a cheaper option, compared to a paper copy. ePortfolios are also highly secure, as most use encryption technology to store the recordings, documents and photographs within. Moreover, they can be backed up on the nurse’s home computer, the cloud or through a third-party service.

A great support for reflective practices

As well as avoiding the paperwork that is often associated with progress recording, student nurses can use an app to add updates to the ePortfolio whenever they’re needed. This is ideal when it comes to uploading videos of simulated or real interactions and examinations. By keeping all their progress in one easy-to-access location, nurses can manage their learning and review how far they have come. This can be highly motivational during the more stressful periods of medical training and gives students a chance to think about their readiness for practice.

Electronic health record software improves recording and summarizing

Whether they are a nurse leader, a doctor or a newly registered nurse, all medical professionals encounter electronic health records (EHRs) when they work in a clinic or hospital. This ubiquitous form of technology has transformed how patient notes are recorded and shared, making it easier to locate information and search for specific details. Although the same software is not used by every facility, the basic skills that are needed to use EHRs can be taught to nurses in order to improve their medical care. These include good communication, a concise writing style and using a database efficiently. EHRs constitute legal documents, and to use them correctly, nurses must become familiar with a range of protocols. Their work in a facility will be based on the information they extract and input into these systems, so training nurses in the use of EHRs using practice software is crucial.

Making the process of learning safe and effective

Universities and hospitals that integrate EHR work into their curriculum or professional development allow staff to learn in a safe environment. As well as providing individual practitioners with the competencies they need to record accurately, effective training helps to lower the healthcare costs of a facility by reducing errors and boosting patient satisfaction.

Learning online offers more freedom and flexibility

Online study provides nurses with access to a huge range of learning materials that are free and can be reviewed at home. From documents to research projects, videos and quizzes, these interactive tools are available when it is convenient for the individual nurse. As a result, nurses can design a study plan that fits in with their specific needs and tailor their learning to fill any knowledge gaps they have. Better still, nurses can develop their skills at a pace that suits their lifestyle and fits in around the commitments they have. This can be especially useful for working nurses who are taking further qualifications while continuing in their current role.

Networking with other medical professionals across the US

As online learning makes it easy for nurses to connect with one another, it is an excellent facilitator of collaborative work. Students can communicate with colleagues across the country to work on projects, share experiences and exchange ideas. Most learning institutions now have live forums in which professionals can come together to discuss trends in the industry and react to news stories.

Telehealth platforms deliver a range of learning experiences

Although it had been available for some time, during the COVID-19 pandemic telehealth came to prominence as a service that could cut waiting lists, enhance patient experiences and lower costs for medical facilities. As it had been used infrequently before the pandemic, many health professionals had not yet learned how to manage it effectively. Therefore, training in the use of this technology is useful for nurses. Primarily, these digital systems allow practitioners to provide remote care to patients who are housebound or living in remote locations. Through this, nurses learn more about treating diverse populations, develop their cultural competence skills, and become more adaptable to new ways of working.

Using virtual clinics as training opportunities

Telehealth also has benefits in terms of basic nurse education, as for a new technology to be implemented effectively, the entire organization needs to play a supporting role. Younger nurses can be trained alongside more experienced colleagues to participate in virtual clinics that provide guidance on competencies such as interviewing patients. As nurses rely on their observational skills less during a remote appointment, the focus is on virtual assessments in telehealth. Furthermore, nurses who have yet to take on a rotation in a remote clinic can participate in a virtual session at the facility. This ensures that they know what to expect when they arrive for work and are in a better position to support their colleagues.

Preparing nurses for a future in healthcare technology

As technology is incorporated into healthcare, it is becoming a more central part of professional development for medical teams. These diverse learning experiences ensure that practitioners understand more about the latest innovations in care and how these tools can be integrated into clinical practice. As a result, patient outcomes continue to improve, and nurses at all levels of seniority are confident and ready to adopt emerging healthcare technologies.