March 2nd, 2012
By Jennifer Olin, BSN, RN
The new millennium isn’t that new anymore but one thing is for sure, new technology is a day-to-day occurrence, particularly in the world of nursing. As a nursing student, not all that long ago (I graduated in 2001), literally none of the gadgets available to nursing students today even crossed our minds. Every clinical day I filled my pockets with notecards, care plans, diagrams, charts, assorted equipment, and a pharmacology book and headed off to school. My coat weighed a ton and there was more in my book bag.
Today, a simple phone can carry all the info you need to get through a clinical day. With that in mind, I reached out to some of the tech savvy nurses I know and asked for their input. What, are the programs, apps, gadgets that every nursing student should have today?
Kevin Ross, RN, BSN, has over sixteen years of combined entrepreneurial and healthcare experience, including a couple of those years as a nurse in the Cardiovascular Surgical Intensive Care Unit (CSICU) at Johns Hopkins Hospital, in Baltimore, MD. Never one to settle also meant a strong desire to combine his nursing experience and passion with his interest in technology and enthusiasm for entrepreneurship.
These seemingly disparate interests are what led Ross to start a medical consulting company in 2007. Over the last four years Spire Health Partners has evolved into an organization providing advocacy services to a broad population of special needs adults and children. The company also provides wellness mentorship, childcare health and corporate wellness programs.
“The goal of ‘Innovative Nurse’ has been to build a strong community for nurses to better realize their true potential in the health care field, Ross said. “’Innovative Nurse’ only launched at the end of 2011, but in just a short time the response has been overwhelmingly positive proving out my theory that nurses are receptive to, and even seeking out, information and resources of this kind.”
Since Ross is a dedicated working nurse and a lover of all things high tech I asked him for some recommendations for today’s nursing students. First on his list is a little free program called "Evernote".
Kevin, why do you think this is a great addition to a nursing student’s computer?
”Have you ever been all too consumed by the countless pages of notes, the Post-its® that litter your computer monitor or desk, the crumpled up receipts or napkins that you’ve jotted down information on hoping that you remembered to take them out of your pocket before those pants went into the wash?
“This is where Evernote comes in. It’s a free application that keeps all of your notes in sync across all of your devices and organized so that you’re able to easily find them when you need them. With ‘Evernote,’ you can create a ‘notebook’ for each topic, take notes, and then save them in that particular notebook to refer back to later. One of the great advantages is that it syncs across all of your devices, so if you’re in class taking notes on your laptop, it will automatically sync to your desktop at home, or your mobile device.
”Another great aspect is the web clipper feature. This is a simple plug-in for your browser. When gathering information from the internet for projects or research there’s never enough time to look over the entire web content right away. Before ‘Evernote,’ you would typically just bookmark the page, or copy and past the URL into another document. With the clipper plug-in, you can just clip the article right from your browser and it’s automatically stored in your designated notebook so that you can return to it when you need it. You can also view the article right from the notebook itself within the application.
”The mobile version is compatible with Android, iOS, Windows, and Blackberry devices. This gives you the ability to take notes on the fly, no matter where you are. You can also take photos to add to your notebooks, or you can even create voice notes right from your smartphone or tablet. It’s also cross platform on either Mac OSX or Windows® computers.
“One last feature to highlight is the ability to collaborate. Let’s say that you’re working on a group project and you’ve divided up responsibilities among the group. With ‘Evernote,’ you can share assigned notebooks so that everyone can contribute and see the progress of what everyone is working on. “
This next application you are talking about is a bit older than most. I remember downloading “Epocrates” on my PDA (personal digital assistant) in 2002 or 2003. Is it really still relevant?
”As I remember it, during my clinical rotations in nursing school, I was required to go into the hospital the day before and write down my patient’s diagnoses and medication list so that I could formulate a care plan. Using flash cards, I then jotted down pertinent information for each medication that I would be administering. I carried these oversized flash cards with me while in rotation. What a nuisance.
”Since most of us carry a mobile device, our access to information is conveniently within reach. ‘Epocrates’ is a great tool that can be accessed through any web browser and is also available on multiple handheld devices in the form of an app that provides the necessary information for every medication.
”Once your are inside the app, you’re able to quickly search for the medication. You have the ability of looking at the entire monograph, or quickly accessing certain information such as diseases/symptoms treated, typical dosing schedules, and even patient education information to assist you with your patient teaching. The pharmacology section within the interface also allows you to click on the subclass of the drug so that you can look up other drugs that treat the same disease. For instance, due to the multitude of available beta-blockers to treat CHF you can quickly get familiar with the wide range that are available in this subclass.
”In my opinion one of the best features of ‘Epocrates’ is the ability to look up the pictures of each pill. Once a particular drug is off patent, there are often times multiple manufacturers making generic equivalents, which translates into various shapes, colors, and sizes of the medication. Having the option to quickly reference the pictures to confirm the pill your administering can greatly reduce the risk of med errors. The information is also frequently updated, and also provides newly developed information released by the FDA such as Black Box Warnings. “
You really go my attention with this next gadget. Every girl loves a good bag, what makes these special?
”Eighty percent of my workday is spent away from my office, so to stay productive on the road I need to create a mobile office environment. I rely on a lot of gadgets in my business to get things done and some of those devices can get drained after a few hours of heavy use. If you’ve ever found yourself away from an accessible outlet or forgotten the cords to charge up your devices that you’ve been using all day, then you know where I coming from.
”Well, there’s nothing more convenient than getting a little juice from the bag that you’re using to tote around all of your gadgets. The Powerbag comes equipped with a built in battery that has an Apple® connector, micro-USB, mini-USB and full sized USB cable that has the ability to charge up to four devices at once, no matter where you are. Not only do you have the ability to charge up all of these devices, but you can also carry them all in the bag, not to mention any other items that would typically fit into a backpack, messenger bag, or briefcase. Leave the cords at home and have piece of mind that you have some mobile juice for all of your gadgets while on the go.”
These are some great suggestions. Plus, "Evernote" is free, most of "Epocrates" is free as well and since most of us have to buy a book bag or backpack or briefcase at some point, why not have one that works for you?
”Innovation isn’t about creating something new, but rather improving upon an idea or concept that makes a product or service better and more effective,” Ross told me. “Remaining productive, no matter what industry or setting you’re in is critical, and working more efficiently is key to success in managing it all. These are just a few pieces of technology that can help you work to your full potential, while keeping it all together when you’re pulled in so many different directions. “
Well said. And, if you are interested in more of Ross' suggestions check out one of his recent posts at "Innovative Nurse." It is all about triaging patients with the latest technology–and it's at your fingertips.