Initiating Nursing Student PDA Use: Lessons Learned

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Rebecca S. Jensen, MS, RN
Nursing Department, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne, IN

Learning Objective 1: list common concerns of students after initiating personal digital assistant requirements.

Learning Objective 2: describe suggestions that may help faculty and students when initiate new technology in a nursing program.

Emerging nursing literature has demonstrated a clear benefit for safe patient care when nurses have access to information at the point-of-care. Personal digital assistants (PDAs), as well as other devices such as the iTouch®, can offer the information as nurses are providing care, such as administering medications and educating patients. As an extension of nursing practice, nursing students also need reliable information during clinical practica. Faculty at one nursing program decided to require that all incoming students purchase PDAs and install five reference books on the device: diagnostic tests, drug guide, IV drug guide, medical encyclopedia, and nursing diagnoses. Another recent addition to the programs on the PDA was the use of nTrack® to catalog essential clinical behaviors and clinical evaluations. In the third semester after initiating PDA purchase and use, a survey was distributed to all clinical courses in which students with PDAs might be enrolled. Few demographic questions were used. Primarily information about use of the PDAs and other information sources was solicited. The results indicated that students felt adrift and alone when having problems with their PDAs. Students reported that contacting the technical support from the PDA or online book company was ineffective in resolving problems. The vast majority of faculty were also neophytes in the use of PDAs. Thus, nursing educators and clinical faculty were uncertain as to how to help students with PDA concerns. Several recommendations emerged from the PDA survey: provide a “Frequently Asked Questions” list for students and faculty, offer open help sessions at the beginning of each semester to address PDA or nTrack® concerns, and provide clinical faculty with hands-on orientation to the PDA programs during faculty orientation each semester.