Wiimali: A Virtual Community That Engages Nursing Students in Learning about Primary Health Care

Wednesday, 1 August 2012: 8:50 AM

Tracy Levett-Jones, PhD, RN, MEd, &, Work, BN, DipAppSc, (Nursing)
School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, Australia

Australian nursing education about primary health care and community settings is not keeping pace with reform agendas that promote expanded roles for nursing. This is compounded by images of nurses working in fast-paced and acute care environments. Beginning nursing students are surprised and disappointed by the requirement to learn about illness prevention; health promotion; social determinants of health and primary health care.

We developed, implemented and evaluated an online, interactive virtual community (Wiimali) to capturing student’s attention, engage interest, and challenge them to think differently about primary health care. Wiimali is based upon the fact that the social environment into which people are born, live and work is the single most important determinant of health3 and education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it.

Wiimali provides the opportunity to explore social determinants of health, inequity, marginalisation, culture, access, etc. Students take a virtual tour of Wiimali, listen to the weekly community radio news reports, read a newspaper that is delivered weekly, explore the community via an interactive map with links to the Wiimali Aboriginal Medical service. Students see a home birth, visit the occupational health and safety nurse that works in industry, and interview the practice nurses working in the GP clinic. A deeper appreciation of the life experiences and perspectives of some of the residents and health professionals from Wiimali is afforded by access to a series of Blogs. Wiimali is premised on a constructivist and experiential model of learning. It engages students and causes them to critically analyse their own assumptions and beliefs about models of health.

Findings will be presented from an evaluation study that examined the impact of Wiimali on student learning, engagement, sense of social justice and understanding of primary health care.