Nursing education has changed enormously in the past decade — in large part due to rapidly developing nurse technology. There are many exciting ways that nurse educators can use these new electronic tools in their day-to-day teaching.
We’re living in a digital age, and modern technology has revolutionized the field of nurse education. Among the many technologies being used are simulations, electronic textbooks, videoconferencing, online videos, and instant access to medications and diagnoses via apps and online guides.
Online masters nursing programs are taking advantage of the developing technology to provide students with virtual learning environments. These virtual learning environments make it possible to earn professional qualifications, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, even in remote locations or at the convenience of your own schedule.
Online learning allows students to be actively engage in what is being taught. In this model the instructor serves more as a facilitator than an expert, working to bring out each individual student’s knowledge. This style of education is known as “adult learning theory” 1 and is well-suited to educating advancing nurse professionals.
Technology also allows patients to have far greater access to nurses’ skills and knowledge. “Technology erases the traditional boundaries of space and time, which allows nurses to access innovations in care, proven best practices, and insights from academic research on the fly at the patient’s bedside — whether the patient is in a hospital, an outpatient facility, a rehabilitation center, or even a private home,” says Roy L. Simpson, Vice President, Nursing, at the Cerner Corporation.2
Challenges and Rewards of Electronic Learning
In recent years, there has been an explosion in the use of electronic media in education — and nursing education is no exception. While this has created many new opportunities for teaching, it can also be hugely challenging for nurse educators who did not grow up with the technology themselves, yet find themselves in a position where they are now teaching a generation of "digital natives" who expect all aspects of their education to be digitally connected.
In today’s technology-centric health care systems, nurse educators must be equipped to embrace all of the technology at their fingertips in order to provide students with a cutting-edge education.
Among the many advantages of a technology-based education are:
- Online learning erases traditional barriers to education, such as distance or geography.
- Electronic learning allows students learn and communicate their ideas in a wide variety of ways, while connecting easily with teachers and peers.
- Online learning environments let students make mistakes without harming patients. They can practice new skills as often as they want, whenever it best suits them.
The New Role of Virtual Learning Environments
With a major nursing shortage on the horizon,3 America needs more educated nurses at all levels of the profession. Online education enables more people to enter the profession and increase their skills as they advance in their nursing careers.
The Institute of Medicine’s landmark 2010 study, “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Care,”4 found that nursing education needs to change to meet the demands of an aging and increasingly diverse population, within a changing health care system. Virtual learning environments can play a key role in that transformation.
For example, traditional residency field experience is based on a “see one, do one, teach one” model. By contrast, virtual environments allow nurses to repeat skill- and competency-based lessons as often as they need to without impacting real patients, thereby increasing the number of nurses who can develop new skills. Another benefit of the technology is that virtual learning is “always on,” which makes it ideal for nurses who are currently employed but need to study in their off hours. It enables these nurses, no matter where they are or what time of day it is, to develop skills as it suits them.
Today’s nurse educators should lead the way in embracing nurse technology, in order to transform nurse education and patient care in the United States for the better.
Find out more about earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree online at Loyola University New Orleans.