September 10, 2013

The most important part of the iPhone 5S for nursing is not the phone, its the Touch ID

Today Apple announced the iPhone 5S, the latest upgrade to their phone with an improved CPU and camera. For nurse educators the most important part of the announcement was the new addition of a fingerprint sensor, call Touch ID built into the home button. This is a remarkable advancement in biometric identification which can bring a new level of security to mobile devices and electronic medical records in hospitals.

The Touch ID system reads a fingerprint below the surface level, at any position, and with any finger. It learns the users fingerprint and improves with use. Anyone who has struggled getting the Pyxis thumb print sensor to work will appreciate this new advance.

Biometric identification, like that used in the Pyxis, is the ultimate in security of private data. The Touch ID makes access to records secure by eliminating passwords or PINs, which can be stolen or figured out. The extra benefit is that it speeds access to the device. In the Apple video the sensor immediately opens the phone. Imagine an EMR in the hospital that you can quickly touch to turn on. No passwords to change monthly or to be surreptitiously taken.

Nurses have access to very private data and the series of passwords and PINs to secure the data has been its biggest vulnerability. Today Apple has opened to the door to a new level of patient privacy protection.

September 3, 2013

PDA is DOA: Stop using 'Personal Digital Assistant'

A new book about computers in healthcare came across my desk today and I noticed that it still referred to PDAs, or Personal Digital Assistants. This is an outdated term that was long ago replaced with other terms such as handheld computer, smartphone, or tablet. Even the literature databases prefer "Computers, Handheld" over PDA. This change took place over 5 years ago, yet PDA still won't go away.

The PDA device morphed into the smartphone and handheld computer (such as a tablet computer or iPod Touch). There are no more PDAs even being made. PDAs were developed in the 1990s for business people to store contact data. Palm and Microsoft developed operating systems that also allowed the addition of third-party applications. It was usually cumbersome to add these applications and there was no central place to buy them and have them automatically added to the device. With the invention of the iPhone in 2007 the days of the PDA became numbered. To buy apps now I just go to iTunes, find my apps, and hit Buy. They wirelessly download into all my iDevices.

So today I am begging my fellow nursing educators to forget about PDA as relic of the past. You would not refer to your car as a horseless carriage. Lets keep up with rest of the technology world and use Handheld Computer. Handheld computer covers smartphones, iPod Touch, and any size tablet computer we are now likely to be using the classroom or clinical.

August 30, 2013

Mini tablets as handheld computers for nursing clinical

Until recently the choices for handheld computing in the clinical setting were 3 to 4 inch screens or 9 to 10 inch tablets. This brought about the Goldilocks test of one being too small and the other being too big. The phone-sized devices can be harder to read and to input text. The traditional tablet, such as the iPad, is too big to put into a scrub pocket and a little on the heavy side to carry around.

The mini-tablet, such as the iPad Mini, has a 7.9 inch screen. This gives the user an experience closer to the large tablet but at a size that is more transportable. If you don't want an Apple tablet be sure to choose an Android-compatible tablet such as the Google Nexus 7 or Samsung Galaxy Tab 3. The Apple iOS and the Android operating systems have healthcare software available. For this reason I do not recommend the Amazon Kindle Fire HD because it is limited to Amazon Kindle apps. My preference is for the Apple iOS devices because there are large numbers of free and commercial healthcare apps available, and it is much easier as an educator to direct students to the App Store to find the software.

September 12, 2012

What the new Apple iPhone 5 and iPod Touch mean for nurse educators

Today Apple announced the new iPhone 5, an updated iPod Touch, a new iPod Nano, and a new OS for the iOS devices. What will be of most interest are the iPod Touch and iPhone 5. These now come with a larger, high quality display and faster processors. There are improvements to the inner workings for things such a lower power Bluetooth connection. On the outside they are thinner, lighter, and taller. The width is the same.

The iPod Touch has long been my favorite recommended device for nursing students who do not want the monthly cost of an iPhone. All smartphones require a monthly data fee. The iPhone 5 in the US will work with Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint but all require a minimum extra cost of $30 per month. However, for as price sensitive as students claim to be I find that nearly all of my students now have an iPhone or an Android smartphone.

For nursing faculty who want to recommend software that will work on any student's smartphone they will be limited to the major commercial reference titles. If you want to have students use the hundreds of other healthcare apps the best choice is the iOS line of devices. This includes the iPhone, the iPad, and the iPad Touch. Only the iPhone requires a monthly charge. The iPad and iPod Touch will work with WiFi access to the Internet.

Another advantage of the iOS system is that students only need to go to one place, the iTunes Store, to download apps. There are many free and low cost apps available.

Both the iPhone 5 and the new iPod Touch have a taller screen. Most apps will probably not take advantage of this increased real estate at first. I would expect that the developers of the major commercial apps will be updating their apps within a few months from now. All older apps will run fine but in a "letter-boxed" format so you won't see a stretched image.

I will post more ideas about how these devices affect nursing faculty as soon as I get my hands on one. I will be ordering one on Friday when preorders become available.

August 5, 2012

NPR addresses the Nursing Faculty shortage

On August 3, 2012 the NPR radio program Morning Edition presented a balanced and informative story about the nursing faculty shortage. The story probably has nothing nursing faculty were not already aware of, but it is told with some real-life examples to illustrate the facts.

I also encourage you to see the comments section for that story. It has always made me angry at the number of people who believe the answer to a nursing shortage is to lower standards. We don't do that for any other profession but even nurses will denigrate the need for more education. I have always asked for where it says that less education is better than more education in any discipline?

May 18, 2012

Nurses' name tags have names on them, right?

I have seen reports that some nursing programs are eliminating last names from student name tags for security purposes. This is troubling to me for several reasons. The purpose of the name tag is so patients and other staff can identify you. That is part of the openness necessary for patient praise or complaints. Nursing students are also new faces to the staff on a unit who also may need to identify a student. The other issue is one of professionalism. It is fine for my mechanic or waitress to display only first name because that is all the information I need in this transaction; but professionals should exhibit a little more formality. I really don't want my neurosurgeon to only be known as Doctor Phil. A physician-patient and nurse-patient relationship needs to be at a high level of trust. When a nurse refuses to reveal her last name then the message is sent to all patients that they are not trusted.

We give up much in the name of security even when it protects very little. Anecdotal stories of nurses being stalked are not enough to make decisions that diminish the role of nurses in patient care. A patient crazy enough to stalk a nurse or nursing student is probably also resourceful enough to find out her last name.
Nursing faculty need to be modeling a professional image for students. Cowering in fear over minimal risks sends the wrong message to students and patients.
Let's keep full names on the name tags of nursing students and faculty. Send a message to your students and patients that we are professionals engaged in mutual trust.

Now let me tell you what I think of the security measures of the TSA...


May 9, 2012

Calculators in Clinical? I sure hope so.

Recently I heard about a nursing clinical faculty member who refuses to let students use a calculator in the clinical setting. I was stunned. Not knowing the rationale for this policy I will speculate that teacher thinks using a calculator will somehow soften students' thinking, or make them reliant on a machine that may not be available. Neither of these rationales have much merit.

Clinical education needs to focus on teaching students how to solve clinical problems. The overriding educational principle should be on how nurses would solve those problems and teach students that process. I cannot imagine a nurse refusing to use a calculator to check a dosage or other calculation.

We need to keep focusing on what skills students really need to function clinically. Calculators are ubiquitous. Even the NCLEX-RN exam has a pop-up calculator. Scenarios of blackouts or no calculators on a unit are too farfetched for faculty to be worrying about in our limited time with students.

This principle needs to be applied to all of our faculty decisions. Ask yourself if your methods of teaching or your assignments are helping students to make good clinical decisions? If are they vestiges of teaching the way your were taught, or an attempt to "toughen them up" then please let me know why they are still used?