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Earning a nursing degree doesn’t look the same today as it did 20 years ago, with students sitting behind a desk taking lecture notes. In fact, 75 percent of programs now use online or distance learning. Technology has dramatically changed the landscape of nursing education, with new resources available to enhance learning and even provide more flexibility in how and where students are taught. New nurses must be prepared to work with emerging technologies in medicine, and advancements in educational technology can help prepare them for work in this rapidly evolving field.

The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic made online learning a ubiquitous teaching method, but nursing schools were already putting virtual education into practice. Through online instruction, virtual learning, partnerships with facilities, and more, students are benefiting from technology in nursing schools. Here are four ways students are getting the most out of their education with new technology.

1. Virtual Didactic Instruction

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought online classroom options to the forefront for students from elementary school through high school and universities. While adjusting to an online model required adaptations for many students and teachers, the potential benefits of virtual learning are apparent. When online didactic instruction is tailored to the needs of individual students, it can provide a personalized education that trains students to provide better patient care.

In any setting, didactic instruction gives students the opportunity to collaborate, analyze their strengths and weaknesses, and grow as nurses. Virtual instruction offers the benefit of flexibility for both instructors and students, and research has shown students retain information from virtual instruction as well as traditional models.

2. Clinical Experiential Partnerships

Experience in the lab is a vital part of a nursing student’s instruction. Virtual learning does not mean students will miss out on this important step. By providing learner supply kits and skills training materials for practice, learners are able to build key skills. Then, the students complete are a video themselves as they demonstrate the required skill. Specific faculty members are trained and utilized to evaluate the skills videos to determine competency, This serves as an alternative to in-person labs and allows these learners to continue on their path to nursing licensure

Nursing students at Nightingale College.

Throughout a nursing student’s education, real-life experience and training will be a critical component. This training helps produce competent nurses who are confident in their knowledge, skills and training as they enter the workforce full-time.

3. Virtual Reality and Simulations

Educators have been exploring new technologies for use in nursing curriculums, including simulations and virtual reality. In fact, a 2017 study found that 65 percent of nursing programs were using visual simulations as part of their instruction. These options are surely gaining popularity as more students are learning online. Adopting new technology isn’t always easy, but being thrown into virtual learning gives instructors a needed push to put these important and effective technologies to use.

Simulations can put nursing students through a variety of scenarios they may encounter in real life, such as working with difficult patients. Virtual reality is much more than an expensive video game; it is a valuable tool for students and educators that can supplement classroom and hands-on learning. While real-life training is essential for nursing students, it still cannot provide every scenario a nurse may encounter. Virtual reality can help bridge the gap by allowing students to virtually go through additional scenarios and develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

4. Nursing Education Through Online and Hybrid Models

Students have changed over the years, and the way they are taught needs to adapt along with them. Students today are immersed with technology in every aspect of their lives, and schooling should be no different. Online learning is not just a method to be used when there are no other options. Rather, educators should utilize e-learning and new technology to give students the best of both worlds.

Online teaching, virtual training and traditional in-person methods should be integrated to give students an outlook on all possible scenarios. This includes medical education in underserved geographical areas. The changing model allows for students to learn and utilize their education to assist these populations that may have been previously overlooked. Adapting teaching techniques to meet the needs of students helps future nurses be more engaged and gives them the necessary skills to hit the ground running in the workforce, no matter where they are.

The use of technology is increasing in the medical field, as well as in education. Employing virtual instruction and technology in nursing schools gives students a deeper and more varied education. This enhanced learning experience better prepares them with the skills and competency required to be successful as nurses.

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