Online Learning as Tool for Professional Development In Nursing Education

Afza.Malik GDA

Professional Development In Nursing Education and Online Learning as Tool

Online Learning as Tool for Professional Development In Nursing Education

Online/Distant Learning as a Tool for Professional Development,Health Professional Need for Continuing Education In Nursing,Preferences for Continue Education In Nursing,Present Examples of Professional Development through Web Based Education in Nursing.

Online/Distant Learning as a Tool for Professional Development

    The American Nurses' Association (ANA) defines nursing professional development as “the lifelong process of active participation in learning activities to enhance professional practice” (Jackson, 2004). Nurses are challenged to maintain current knowledge on evidence-based professional practice and rapidly changing professional, ethical, and legal issues. 

    Online education provides a means to enhance nursing professionals' clinical knowledge and skills, including technological, clinical decision making, leadership, management, even pharmaceutical advances and updates. This chapter will examine the use of online education as a viable tool for a variety of leading activities towards a nurse's professional development. 

Health Professional Need for Continuing Education In Nursing

    Nurses recognize the need for lifelong learning, and management acknowledges that environments rich in continuing education tend to advance staff development, increase morale, and promote retention (Postler Slattery & Foley, 2003). In view of the present nursing shortage in all areas, as well as the constantly shifting health care setting, new illnesses, and changing patient responses to drugs, infections, and the environment, the challenge is to provide continuing education to all nurses. 

    This education must take into consideration the complexity of the staff's varying backgrounds, certification, and interest, as well as the limited resources provided for professional development.

    Access to and use of online continuing education by doctors and nurses has been studied (Casebeer, Bennett, Kristofeo, Carillo, & Centor, 2002; Cobb, 2003; Cobb & Baird, 1999). Findings indicate that the use of the Internet for professional development among doctors and nurses is growing, especially in relationships to continuing education. 

    However, easy access to relevant and credible information that is quickly available, easy to use, and relatively low cost were priorities identified by health professionals (Cobb, 2003). In addition, indexing the clinically focused health information online is challenging but important to enhance its usefulness to nurses and other health care providers (Casebeer et al., 2002). 

    Research on Health Professionals' Use of the Internet for Health Information Several studies have been done examining health professionals' use of the Internet for health information and continuing education. Overall, the studies' results provide limited generalizable information because they are geographically limited and have low response rates. They report conflicting findings and emphasize the need for further research.

    One of the most thorough and informative studies, a randomized market survey of 800 occupational health and safety professionals in an eight state Midwest region of the United States, found that 87.4% reported a high likelihood to participate in continuing education (CE) or advanced degrees via the Internet; 79% did not feel being on campus was important; and 68% were reimbursed for continuing education costs (Carlson & Olson, 2001). 

    However, this study failed to focus on nursing professionals while Lathey and Hodge (2001) surveyed 600 occupational health nurses in New York State and obtained a 28% response rate (N = 165), finding that 38% used the Internet to gather health information and 65% were interested in continuing education via the Internet. 

    In contrast, Hegge, Powers, Hendrick, and Vinson (2002) found that less than 50% of registered nurses surveyed in South Dakota felt their continuing education needs were met by the Internet. Although 75% had computers at home and 76% had computers at work, less than 20% of registered nurses used the computer for continuing education (Hegge et al., 2002). 

Preferences for Continue Education In Nursing 

    Finally, a survey of Nevada Advanced Practice Nurses (APNs), found the most frequently used form of continuing education was in person conferences and the least preferred form was live satellite conferences. Their top three preferences for continuing education were:

(a) in person conference

(b) print-based self study

(c) interactive video conference. 

     In conclusion, this study found that the computer based modes for continuing education including the Internet and CD-ROMs, were among the least used by Nevada APNs (Charles & Mamary, 2002).

    Despite the results of these studies, little data exists related to computer use by nurses for obtaining professional development and accessing continuing education opportunities. The variety of programs available suggests this form of continuing education is more widely used than demonstrated by the above surveys, especially recently. 

Present Examples of Professional Development through Web Based Education in Nursing

    The Internet has made Web-based education feasible for those involved in a variety of professions. In nursing, refresher courses have been designed via the Internet to address the nursing shortage and get nurses to return to the workforce (White, Roberts, & Brannan, 2003). 

    The authors describe how collaborative distance education using a Web based instructional design answers some of the problems of cost, effectiveness, and access for nursing refresher courses (White et al., 2003).

    Career mobility is another educational issue that is sparking interest in online education. RN to BSN programs have begun migrating to the Web, offering the advantages of interactive opportunities, resources on the Internet, and flexible, cost effective, and easily accessible alternatives to traditional education. 

    For nurses juggling work, family responsibilities, care of aging parents, and other life stressors, this is a viable option for professional development (O'Brien & Renner, 2000; Zucker & Asselin, 2003).

    Another use of Web based education is for professional development toward an advanced degree, such as a nursing practitioner degree. Graduate classes are offered online and include core courses like pharmacology (Bata-Jones & Avery, 2004) and pathophysiology (Yucha & Princen, 2000), as well as modules specific to cultural assessment (Clark & Thornam, 2002) and pediatric health assessment ( Kieckhefer, Stevens, & Frkonja, 2002). 

    Three modules were created for a nurse practitioner program and they utilized an interactive framework that used Web links and realistic self studies resembling clinical practice. Registration was accomplished online and pre- and post testing allowed evaluation of learning (Hayes, Huckstadt, & Gibson, 2000).

Finally, Web-based continuing education has been used to offer specialty specific information in the form of summer and semester-long institutes, like the Web based Genetics Institute for a Nursing Audience (Prows, Hetteberg, Hopkin, Latta, & Powers, 2004).

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