Returning registered nurses face an uphill challenge when re-entering their field. To help ease the technology shock for those who have been out of the field for more than 5 years, the library I worked at introduced a project between 2004 and 2005 to loan Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) to Nurse Refresher students as a strategy to expedite the students' orientation to the clinical area during their rotations in hospitals. Today's nurse is burdened with bulging pockets of reference guides and drug books. But a PDA can hold dozens of guides and books and is searchable with a tap of the stylus.
The Wake AHEC Registered Nurse Refresher Program
The Wake Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Registered Nurse (RN) Refresher Program is designed to return registered nurses to practice. Wake AHEC is part of a national program that, among other duties, facilitates educational programs for medical professionals. Wake AHEC, located at WakeMed Hospital in Raleigh, N.C., includes a library that serves nine counties across central North Carolina. There are four librarians and three support staff members. I am Helen Colevins. I was the user's services librarian for 6 years. Kathy Clark, associate director of the Nursing Education Program, and Diana Bond, director of program services, collaborated with the medical librarians to write and submit a grant to the North Carolina AHEC Program Office in April and May of 2004. The grant was used to help introduce PDA technology in the clinical setting to RN Refresher students.
Kathy and Diana understood Refresher students' needs for in-house PDA expertise. Because of my technology background and experience with Palms, I was asked to be part of the grant project. I was the tech consultant for PDAs and software and the sole liaison with the library. I also created the learning materials, designed the instruction, and carried out the hands-on training with the nurses. The medical library was the perfect partner to help with this project, since we could catalog and check out the PDAs as well as train the nursing students.
Currently, more than 50 healthcare organizations partner with Wake AHEC to provide the clinical practicum (practice units) portion of the RN Refresher Program, and more than 1,100 RNs have enrolled since its inception in 1990. Once students complete the series of medical surgical didactic modules (classroom instruction), they are placed in clinical practicums, which take place in acute medical surgical units in local hospitals. The students work one-on-one with a registered nurse (preceptor) who gives them clinical instruction and …