Family Nurse Practitioner Students Utilization of Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs): Implications for Practice

By Tilghman, Joan; Raley, Dionne et al. | ABNF Journal, Summer 2006 | Go to article overview

Family Nurse Practitioner Students Utilization of Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs): Implications for Practice


Tilghman, Joan, Raley, Dionne, Conway, Jia Joyce, ABNF Journal


Abstract: Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) are a readily accessible source of information to aid in the delivery of patient care. A pilot group of five Family Nurse Practitioner students used PDAs to organize data and access information relevant to patient care. Utilization of the PDAs in the clinical setting provided practice guidelines, textbook information and protocols that were readily accessible. The PDA made it possible for students to utilize preexisting knowledge with additional learning resources. The PDAs were purchased with funds provided from a United States Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant.

Key words: Personal Digital Assistants, Family Nurse Practitioner Students, Clinical Settings, Nursing Education, Graduate Nursing.

It is important to maintain competency and knowledge about the ever-changing body of health related knowledge. Encouraging students to use personal digital assistants (PDAs) in programs of nursing is an effective method to integrate technology into the curriculum. The National League for Nursing (NLN) Board of Governors Position Statement Transforming Nursing Education states "nurse educators are expected to more effectively integrate technology into their teaching through the use of distance learning, simulation and PDAs to provide students with clinical experiences in diverse settings (NLN, 2005). According to The Essentials of Master's Education for Advanced Practice Nursing, document graduate course work should enable graduates to use computer hardware and software as well as information systems (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 1996).

This article discusses the utilization of Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) for Family Nurse Practitioner students in a Pediatric course. The PDA is a handheld computing device that can store software and data. The PDA is compact and can be carried in a student's lab pocket. For the transfer or downloading software and backing up data, the PDA can be connected to a desktop computer.

The positive impact of PDAs has been reported in the literature (Craig, 2002, Scordo, Yeager, & Young, 2003; Hastes, 2001; Lehman, 2003). A common theme about PDA use is the positive impact of the PDA on providing care consistent with the best evidence and reduction of errors (White, Allen, Goodwin, Breckenridge, Dowell & Garvy, 2005). Having access to knowledge at the "point of care" is a concept that resounds in the literature on PDA use in healthcare and is the central theme for the "pros" of PDA use (Jenkins, 2002). A student with a PDA equipped with current resources can dispense with heavy textbooks and has immediate access to current and applicable information for the care of patients (Goldsworthy, Lawrence, & Goodman, 2006).

The Graduate program of the Helene Fuld School of Nursing at Coppin State University recently implemented the use of PDAs with a pilot group of five Family Nurse Practitioner students enrolled in a Primary Care Pediatric course. The students received information and demonstrations on operation of the PDA and received basic instruction about synchronization of the PDA with a desktop computer. Training for the students included how to navigate the PDA menu and toolbars, and use of the PDA software.

The PDA software included: Epocratex Rx Pro a drug and formulary reference, Epocratex SxDx a disease reference and integrated symptom assessment tool, Epocrates Lab - a diagnostic and laboratory test reference and the Harriet Lane Handbook for Pediatric House Officers.

Utilization of the PDA

The use of PDAs has been documented as a strategy to decrease the number of medical errors, provide a handheld reference library of diagnostic medical information, disease references, and sub-specialty consultations (Mcalearney, Schweikhart & Medow, 2003; Mcleod, Ebbert, & Lymp, 2003; Nylenna, Aasland, 2000; Rothschild, Lee, Bae, & Bates 2000). …

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