Emerging technology—nursing students want it, nursing faculty need it, and healthcare institutions rely on it. But where do you start with innovation in nursing education?
If your nursing program is looking to innovate and step up, you’ve come to the right place. This article discusses the unmet needs technology can meet for your nursing program, and four emerging technologies to specifically consider.
Invest in Technology That Meets An Unmet Need
Any discussion about “innovation” needs a caution sign. That’s because today, the word innovation often signifies fancy apps, robots, and other expensive state-of-the-art technology.
But that’s not how you bring innovation to your nursing program.
According to innovator, nurse, and researcher Dr. Tiffany Kelley, innovation must “meet an unmet need.” It’s as simple as that. Find a product, process, or service that fixes a problem in your nursing program. (Notice that innovation in nursing education doesn’t even have to be a technological gadget according to this definition!)
This advice is basic, but sometimes the glimmer and shine of emerging technology make us forget the most important criteria for investing in emerging technology.
Unmet Needs in Your Nursing Education Program
What are your program’s unmet needs? Every nursing program is unique, so it follows that the right technology for your program may differ from another nursing program. That being said, nursing programs face a number of common problems—especially in the wake of the pandemic.
An excellent research report succinctly outlines many of the issues nursing programs face today. Forecast for the Future: Technology Trends in Nursing Education, a joint research project between the National League for Nursing and Wolters Kluwer, provides this helpful graphic.
Inspired by the research published in the NLN and Wolters Kluwer report, we’ve picked three unmet needs you may want to highlight when shooting for innovation in nursing education.
Accessibility for all learning environments
As you can see in the graph below, the trend toward hybrid and online learning isn’t going anywhere after the pandemic. The needs during the pandemic were not met easily, and nursing programs need to continue to grow toward being remote and hybrid friendly. So whatever emerging nursing technology you adopt, think scalable, sustainable, and effective for brick and mortar classrooms and in online environments.
Better preparation for practice
This is perhaps the most pressing issue nursing programs face. Some programs separate clinical judgment and clinical preparedness as two unmet needs, but we’ve combined them. Clinical judgment is a direct strategy for bridging the theory-practice gap and improving overall preparedness for practice, so preparing for practice seems to cover both bases.
Enhancing nursing program capacity
Finally, most nursing programs’ third common unmet need is not having the resources to train all qualified nursing applicants effectively. This includes a “reduction in the number of available clinical sites.” The issue, as emphasized by this statistic from Forecast for the Future, also extends to the number of nurse educators and their time:
Fatigue for nursing faculty is real, and this current strain on program capacity doesn’t even reflect the thousands of qualified applicants turned away in the midst of a nursing shortage. Capacity issues are keeping us from educating as many nurses as we can.
Emerging Technologies To Consider
We’ve outlined the most common unmet needs for nursing programs, so now let’s discuss the different types of technology nursing programs can invest in to address those unmet needs.
Forecast for the Future predicted the direction for technology adoption and provided a thorough list.
Perhaps too thorough—at least for this article, which focuses on four important emerging technologies from the report:
- Virtual simulation / virtual reality
- Video evidence for skills / video capture software
- EHR applications
For each emerging technology, we’ll review, define what it is, how it addresses the three most common unmet needs in nursing programs, and provide a few products that provide a solution.
1. Virtual Simulation & Virtual Reality
What is it? Virtual simulation technology differs from the ubiquitous simulation labs used in nursing programs today. Instead of interacting in a physical room or with material objects, VR simulation “is the use of a variety of immersive, highly visual, 3D characteristics to replicate real-life situations and health care procedures, incorporating physical or other interfaces such as a computer keyboard, a mouse, speech/voice recognition, motion sensors, or haptic devices.”
Why invest in it? Virtual simulation can potentially solve all three of the unmet needs nursing programs face today:
- Accessibility for all learning environments. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how virtual reality improves accessibility for all learning environments. An article for HealthTech reported nursing educators seeing virtual reality as “a lifeline, often via a laptop or tablet” pivoting to online and hybrid learning environments.
- Better preparation for practice. There are quite a few articles that review and evaluate the effectiveness of virtual reality for nursing programs to better prepare nursing students for practice. In an article reviewing studies from 1996 to 2018 on this topic, the authors concluded that “virtual simulation resulted in improved student learning outcomes” (i.e., knowledge, skill performance, learner satisfaction, critical thinking, and self-confidence). Another article providing a meta-analysis of the use of VR in nursing programs came to similar conclusions.
- Enhancing program capacity. With limited access to clinical sites and campus simulation labs, virtual simulation fills an important gap. Also, consider how running a physical simulation lab takes a village (e.g., technicians, instructors, actors, etc.). In this way, using virtual reality more often in your nursing program potentially frees up limited resources.
What are some solutions? A lot of products exist today that fit the definition of virtual reality for nursing education. To give you a thorough list of options, we recommend perusing a list provided by the National League of Nursing (NLN).
2. Video Capture Software
Here’s the nice thing about this technology, Forecast for the Future lists two video technologies: video for skills and video capture software. If you invest in the right product, you can get a two-for-one with video assessment software.
What is it? Video assessment software allows students to capture and safely upload videos of themselves performing skills at home or even at the lab. You can capture more than just skills check-offs. Instructors use it to capture role plays, SBAR group assignments, and even to upload high-tech simulation lab videos in the software.
The real magic of video assessment software is what you can do with the recordings of skills check-offs or simulation videos. Instructors can upload rubrics, create custom markers, and provide time-stamped, multimodal feedback to evaluate nursing students.
Why invest in it? Similar to simulation, video assessment software solves all three of the most common unmet needs nursing programs face today:
- Accessibility for all learning environments. A recent report shows a dramatic usage of video assessment among nursing programs after and during the pandemic. Those numbers also suggest this trend will continue post-pandemic. Why? Because video assessment provides a sustainable and seamless option for remote, hybrid, and on-campus learning environments to practice and receive feedback on critical skills (i.e., technical psychomotor and communication skills).
- Better preparation for practice. Not only does video assessment meet the post-pandemic needs of nursing programs, but nursing instructors feel it also provides experiential learning and supports evidence-based strategies to take on the theory-practice gap in nursing. In the following clip, Dr. Ali Galindo shares how video assessment software can better prepare nurses for practice.
- Enhancing program capacity. Similar to virtual simulation, the flexibility of video assessment alleviates the strain on in-demand resources like clinical sites, skills labs, and simulation labs. Another way that video assessment opens up resources is faculty time: faculty at UWA found that they save half the time evaluating skills check-offs using video assessment. In fact, UWA instructors could add a new head-to-toe unit to their skills course because of all the time video assessment saved them.
What are some solutions? We could give you a list of solutions, but according to G2 the best video assessment out there is GoReact.
3. Electronic Health Records (EHR)
Wolters Kluwer wrote an article in 2017 entitled, Why Educators Need to Consider Using EHRs With Student Nurses. Now it’s 2021 and there’s nothing left to consider—nurse educators must incorporate EHR into their curriculum.
What is it? In simple terms, an EHR is a digital patient charting system. Healthcare institutions adopt EHRs because studies show they enhance efficiency and decrease the high rate of medical errors.
Why invest in it? This incorporation of EHR addresses one of the most important unmet needs for most nursing programs:
- Better preparation for practice. The ubiquitousness of EHRs in clinical practice means your nursing students will encounter them when they join the workforce. If you want your students to be better prepared for that transition to clinical practice, prepare them to use EHRs.
What are some solutions? Access to EHR technology is difficult. An excellent article outlining the best way to integrate EHR technology into your nursing program curriculum also lists the most common avenues for using this technology in nursing programs:
- Partner with the clinical organization for student access
- Purchase Academic Electronic Health Records (AEHR)
- Create your own AEHR
What is it? An ePortfolio is a digital portfolio where graduating nursing students articulate professional goals and demonstrate their skills and achievements.
Why invest in it? Similar to the EHR technology, an ePortfolio addresses one of the most important unmet needs in nursing programs:
- Better preparation for practice. ePortfolios function as a capstone project that can reflect the concept-based curriculum in your nursing program. It requires students to think critically, holistically, and communicate efficiently about being ready for practice. In addition to supporting a concept-based curriculum, an excellent article about ePortfolios in American Nurse says that 60–80% of employers do online searches of job candidates. Once you’ve prepared your students to truly be ready for practice, give them a resource to prove clinical preparedness in an ePortfolio.
What are some solutions? That same American Nurse article recommends first connecting with your university career services center to find out what resources are available. Also, consider:
- Google Sites
Invest in Innovation in Nursing Education
So there you have it: if you want to spur innovation in nursing education, consider investing in simulation, video assessment software, EHRs, and ePortfolios. At the same time, remember that these four emerging technologies may not be right for your program.
Real innovation in nursing is a product, process, or service that meets an unmet need in your nursing program. You don’t need an expensive robot to accomplish innovation in nursing education.
To learn more about how video assessment can better prepare nursing students for clinical practice, check out Increase New Nurses’ Clinical Judgment.
Hillary is a trained literary scholar and university writing instructor who traded Shakespeare and Cavendish for content marketing. She loves all things design, art, theatre, travel, and literature.