Clemson nursing students embracing role of mobile technology in health care
When you ask Clemson University School of Nursing professor lecturer Janice Lanham how to improve patient safety and care, she has a simple answer: there’s an app for that.
Lanham, a former clinical nurse specialist at Greenville Health System, is teaching Clemson nursing students how to integrate mobile technology into health care management. Using iPads, Kindles, and other devices, students are learning how to capture medical records and access the latest patient health information.
“In health care, the use of mobile technology is skyrocketing, and nurses are expected to be technologically savvy,” Lanham said. “We want our students to be up to speed in line with the expectations that will be placed upon them when they graduate.”
The types of mobile technology used by nurses vary from computers on wheels to tablets to mobile devices, Lanham said. Therefore, she focuses on instilling ease and comfort with the technology, as well as teaching students how to interpret it.
“We teach them to think critically about the vast information at their disposal, and make sound decisions based on it,” Lanham added. “They need to identify what a patient needs, and use mobile technology along with critical thinking skills to determine what is best for the patient.”
This combination of mobile technology and critical thinking yields incredible dividends for patients and health care as a whole, as nurses are able to gather and offer information to patients at the point of care, Lanham said.
In earlier days, she explained, if a patient asked a question that a nurse couldn’t immediately answer, he or she would have to leave the room and look up the answer in a textbook that might be several years old. “By the time a textbook is published, there is usually new information to add,” she added. “With mobile technology, the latest information is always there, and nurses can immediately convey it to patients.”
Patient safety is also positively impacted, Lanham said, because nurses don’t have to rely on memory alone in their work. “It is impossible to memorize every medication and piece of medical information out there,” she added. “Now, nurses don’t have to memorize everything, and instead can access evidence-based materials to make and confirm sound, safe decisions.”
The use of mobile technology among nurses is also useful in a time where patients are increasingly knowledgeable themselves. Understanding that health care consumers have access to vast amounts of information, some good and some not, nurses can provide and point to the best information using their mobile devices, Lanham says.
Mobile technology can also help a concept come alive for a patient with questions. “When a patient wants to know more about his or her upcoming cardiac catheterization, for example, the nurse can pull up a photo of a heart at the bedside, and the patient can know exactly what is going to happen,” she explained.
Lanham is excited about the prospects for her students and the impact they will make on health care using technology. “They have grown up in the information age; it is where they are and part of who they are,” she said. “When they integrate technology with nursing concepts, the rate at which they learn is phenomenal. They love what they are doing, and when they graduate, it’s a pleasure watching them launch into their careers well equipped for the future.”