Providing a PDA Orientation for Baccalaureate Nursing Students: Best Practices

Monday, 13 July 2009: 2:45 PM

Janice M. Jones, PhD, RN, CNS
Meredith Rissmiller, MS, RN, WHNP
School of Nursing, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY

Learning Objective 1: Describe best practices for orienting nursing students to personal digital assistants or handheld computers.

Learning Objective 2: Identify various PDA or handheld computer software useful for nursing students.

Purpose: Personal digital assistants (PDAs) have become increasingly popular and are now considered a necessity for nursing students. PDAs provide quick and easy access to a variety of software programs including a drug database, clinical conditions, diseases, laboratory diagnostic programs, medical calculators, and nursing process guidelines. A review of the literature provided guidance how best to orient students to PDA functions given a variety of students’ computer literacy levels. These practices include providing a hands-on orientation led by faculty directing students through the various functions and databases of information found on the PDA. A troubleshooting guide as well as a Frequently Asked Questions guide was also usually provided by the faculty. Methods: One hundred seven students were divided into four groups. Each group participated in a scavenger hunt on the PDA using a student-directed worksheet. Students were also required to demonstrate the function of the “beam” feature by beaming one or two public domain programs to one another and “accept” the beamed program. As a bonus, this exercise allowed each student to obtain additional programs to add to their personal PDA library. Results: The worksheet allowed the students to use preloaded software to find medical conditions, definitions and nursing interventions while exploring the vast array of information found on the PDA. The orientation process also included the development of a discussion board WIKI as a way to troubleshoot problems. The discussion board was part of Blackboard 8.0 which did not have the WIKI feature enabled at the time of the orientation. The discussion board also included the manner to download software that the student purchased. Conclusion: An evaluation of the orientation process was conducted immediately after each orientation session with students reporting a high degree of satisfaction with the orientation.