There’s no shortage of pontifications or peer-reviewed articles on integrating modern technology into nursing education. Everyone agrees technology can play a powerful role in education as well as patient care.
But as most nursing programs have undoubtedly learned, it’s not the quality of the strategy that matters, but its implementation. The benefits of technology in the classroom far outweigh the benefit of sticking to what we’ve always done. There is a growing divide among nursing educators—largely drawn on generational lines—when it comes to technology in the classroom. Many older faculty members simply aren’t comfortable with new technologies or do not wish to alter their teaching techniques, arguing that their techniques have worked for years.
Here’s the thing: the “tried and true” techniques aren’t working as well as they used to. New graduates continue to struggle with the NCLEX®—with pass rates slipping to about 85% in 2016—and regularly report feeling woefully unprepared for the rigors of nursing. Simply put, many nursing programs today are not producing practice-ready nurses.
The common reaction is to blame the students, that they’re somehow lazier or less involved than prior generations. There may be some truth to this, but the role of a good educator is to “meet students where they are.”
Today’s nursing student cohorts are diverse, multigenerational and technology-savvy. As such, technology is just as important an educational tool as cultural sensitivity.
Of course, technology is not a magic bullet. You can’t throw virtual simulations (even the best available) at students and expect everyone to get it. Effective integration of classroom technology requires faculty buy-in, understanding, and dedicated use—and that’s where many nursing programs fall short.
Nursing programs often tout the desire to equip graduates with the tools to “pursue lifelong learning.” This is a wonderful talking point for marketing, but it’s time that faculty practice what they preach.
A commitment to learning and understanding new technologies must become a part of faculty culture, no matter if democratically driven or mandated by the administration. Attention must be given to understanding technologies now or soon to be in use in the field.
For example, Electronic Health Records are now mandated for hospitals and clinics accepting Medicare, so it is imperative that programs familiarize students with EHR technologies via learning tools like Lippincott DocuCare.
This growing digital divide threatens to alienate different generations of educators. Without a clear commitment to and plan for ongoing faculty training, nursing programs risk irreparable damage to their reputations—both with prospective students and with employers.