Apps, mannequins and actors: Professional development for today’s nurses

by Michael Clarke, RN, Director of Nursing Professional Development
April 12, 2018

Today’s nurses have to keep track of so much more for patients than they did just 30 years ago. Millennials are used to having information at their fingertips, and nurses today have to manage an enormous amount of data simultaneously.

We have accommodated that at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in unique ways.

Just as smartphones store phone numbers and email addresses so we don’t have to remember them, our educational programming for nurses provides instant access to information. This is especially important for millennial nurses who are used to finding what they need with a few taps or clicks, which is what led us to create askNED, our nursing education app.

Just as clicking and swiping helps all nurses access information, new technologies also improve their hands-on preparation for patient care. Today, digital and real-life simulations are often used to practice and get feedback on real life situations nurses will encounter in their daily practice. We prepare our nurses with practical simulations that prepare them for patient situations they’ll encounter in a real-world setting and provide crucial feedback on how to improve patient care.

How a smartphone app streamlines nursing education

Nearly all millennials own and use smartphones, according to data from Nielsen, a global analytics group. Many healthcare apps for smartphones cater to millennials’ demand for instant information, and we encourage our nurses to use the. We also needed a way to connect our nurses directly to information that they want about education updates.

So, we use askNED, an app tailored to our education program. “NED” stands for our Nursing Education Department, which provides classroom and practical education to new nurses in our RN Residency program, as well as experienced nurses, on an ongoing basis. The askNED app is available for free on the App Store and Google Play. Some of the features our nurses use most include:

  • Calendars and schedules
  • Clinical update information
  • Direct access to nurse educators
  • Instructional videos for patient care and equipment use
  • Push notifications for important events
  • Note-taking
  • Quick links to hospital procedures

More than half of our nurses have downloaded askNED. Instead of memorizing procedures and how to set up equipment, we provide our nurses a fast way to look up information when they come across an uncertain situation, so they can get back to caring for their patients.

#Nurse education #apps help nurses find information fast and get back to caring for patients. via @MedStarWHC

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I think we’ll continue to see more nursing apps developed as the next generation goes into nursing. Health care likely will continue to grow and become more complex. Apps that can build on what we’ve done with askNED will play a key role in our nursing education going forward.

Clinical nursing simulations: Practice makes perfect

Nothing beats the value of real-world, practical experience for our nurses. However, today’s nursing students often get less practical experience than classroom instruction. We have found they appreciate extra nursing simulations in our RN Residency and other educational programs for nurses.

Our nurses practice patient assessment on high-tech digitized mannequins that have simulated heartbeats, blood pressure, breathing and vocal responses. One critical simulation that uses these mannequins is a mock Code Blue. A real Code Blue indicates a patient needs immediate, life-saving care, so we want to make sure our nurses practice their responses before that actually happens. In a mock Code Blue, we place a mannequin in a patient room. The nurse goes through the entire process just as they would if resuscitating a real patient. We conduct these simulations monthly in different patient areas of our hospital and in the classroom setting.

Simulations help nurses practice, but for training that’s even truer to life, we have to incorporate real people. We’re increasingly conducting more simulations with patient actors who come to the hospital and follow a script. The actors play patients with particular conditions or diseases, and the nurses work with the protocols they know to provide needed care.

After the simulation, the nurses get feedback from nurse educators and the patient actors. The educators talk to the nurses about what they learned and how they can improve. The actors discuss their experience as well, such as how engaged and attentive the nurses were. Nurses say they learn so much from this feedback, so we allow more time for feedback than we do for the actual patient interaction. It’s given our nurses helpful insight about their patient care.

Albert Einstein once noted that the value of an education “is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think.” That’s even more true in the modern world. Healthcare providers today have to track more facts than any one person could remember on their own. Our nurses’ training ensures that they’ll have resources they are comfortable with and know where to find information they need when lives are on the line.

Category: Innovations, Our Center     Tags: nursenursingnursing educationnursing professional developmentnursing simulation