What is a PDA? PDA stands for personal digital assistant also known as handheld. This device can be thought of as a mini computer that has many applications including the ability to access internet via Wi-Fi or Wireless Wide-Area Networks. The PDA also has the capability to be used as a mobile phone and portable media player. So what does this have to do with nursing education? The main reason PDA is so helpful to nursing students is that they can download applications such as drug references, medical text/information, drug calculation/dosing, etc. that can all be carried with them in a device that can fit into their pocket. Instead of lugging a variety of textbooks around the student can carry one device. The advantages of the PDA in the clinical setting includes saving time by providing access to critical medical information and performing weight based calculation at the point of care. The PDA can also reduce the risk of errors by making calculations accurately and allowing conformation of drug dosing and compatibility. In my own opinion the PDA also decreases stress by allowing me to quickly access critical information allowing me to gain a higher level of confidence. 

       As the growth of using not only PDA’s but PDA’s now located on smart phone occurs there has been a movement to be able to use this technology to have access to patient care record system. A study called The Nightingale Tracker (NT) project was tested in 1996 and 1997 to see if PDA use was helpful in clinic based teaching. NT is defined as a computerized Point of Care (POC) patient information processing unit using the Omaha Patient Care Record System (OPCRS) software incorporated into a PDA. This software allows students to have internet access to a centralized patient data-base and is designed to access, document and communicate information to and from the POC in the central location. The purpose of this system was to facilitate the supervision of students in community-based clinical education by establishing synchronous communication between faculty and students in distant sites and to augment development of a patient care database for instructional purposes. Through the study it was found that students were able to use their PDA to supplement their practice, it allowed students to spend more time with their patient and less time tracking down information and reduced documentation time. Although the PDA is helpful there are negative aspects which included that some of the preloaded nursing software disappeared before student’s got to use the PDA’s, the cost and the short battery life in comparison to the time spent in clinical. Many nursing schools are now using the PDA’s a as not only a part of their clinical use but within the nursing classroom. Uses of the PDA in the nursing classroom include the ability to access reference material, assisting in discussion when used in conjunctions with exercises or lectures, acting as a study aid via interactive exercises and quizzes and when associated with a wireless connection, they can provide instant, in-class feedback to instructors understanding.

       As a nursing student, I would enjoy having to only carry around a PDA compared to my huge textbooks. Although the nursing school I am attending doesn’t have PDA’s for nursing students I bought one this last year to use as a drug reference guide. I have used this application so many times to educate myself on the medication I am givingand to educate my patients. Although setting up the PDA’s may be quite expensive with all the application needed I believe that students would be more willing to look up information and reference it if it was at the convenience of the finger tips. I believe however, that their would have to be some training done on PDA use including patient privacy according to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act as privacy of patient information is a priority. Overall, I could see use of PDA’s especially on smart phones being something that many nursing schools will take advantage of in the future as the nursing practice begins to move toward using this technology.

 
 

To understand nursing education in second life one must first understand what Second Life is. Second Life is a 3-D virtual world entirely built and owned by its users. The users in the virtual world are called avatars. Second Life was developed by Linden Lab and is an advanced level of social networking, where resident’s explore, meet other residents, socialize and participate in individual or group activities. To better understand how this works, check out the YouTube video that will take your through a tour and how it works at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b72CvvMuD6Q&feature=related. So what does any of this have to do with nursing education?

Unknown to many nursing student’s there are actually universities that are teaching their nursing education through Second Life. Some examples of this are Duke University School of Nursing, Harvard University School of Nursing, Dartmouth College of nursing, etc. Why might you ask are schools moving education to an online environment? Nursing education in a virtual world is occurring because it allows students to freely interact in the classroom with the teacher and other students while class is going on, students from around the world can meet in a single classroom without having to travel away from their home, it provides simulation in a safe environment, and allows nursing students to practice skills, try new ideas and learn from their mistakes without having to use a real patient. However, with every positive there are also negatives to nursing education in Second Life which includes a unguided exploration by students can become a distraction and lead to simply goofing off and creating these virtual worlds takes tremendous amount of time, sufficient hardware and software. The biggest negative to nursing education in a virtual world is that you never get hands on experience with your client and is not very realistic at all for a nurse who plans on practicing her skills in the real world one day. So where do we go now knowing the positives and negatives of nursing education in Second Life?

I believe it is important to realize that right now this technology is fairly new and still has a few kinks to work out. Nursing education in Second Life could be a great tool for distance education classes but I believe this would be a better learning environment for graduate nursing students who have practiced their skills in the field on human beings. As far as nursing students in bachelor’s or associates degree programs, I do not see this being helpful if all classes were taught this way because as beginning nursing students you have to get hands on experience with human beings in order to be able to practice your skills in the real world on real human beings. I could however, see it being useful for simulation used to demonstrate a nursing skill that will later be performed in real life. I cannot say for certain if Second Life will catch on with nursing education in the future, but I believe it could offer new learning experiences to students who are increasingly using technology in their nursing education. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for Second Life and nursing education.