Inside USD

360-Degree Learning

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

As a clinical associate professor at USD’s Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science, Karen Macauley makes sure her students are embracing the latest in technology. Handheld devices like her iPhone have become invaluable tools both in clinical practice and the classroom.

The nursing school requires Masters Entry Program in Nursing (MEPN) students to carry a handheld device, either an iTouch, iPhone or iPad, loaded with clinical reference tools. When students go to a clinical site, they log their experiences on nTrack, an application Macauley recently developed with Skyscape Medical.

Students now have all their clinical reference tools, class lectures and other materials on their device readily available in their pockets at all times, so there’s no need to carry manuals or handbooks anymore, she said.

Macauley has been a family nurse practitioner for 16 years and has worked in an internal medicine practice in Hillcrest for the past decade. Being able to reference up-to-date, evidence-based medicine on her iPhone makes it very easy for her to care for patients without having to look at books that can easily become outdated, she said. “All you have to do is pull out your phone.”

She uses both the iPhone and iPad to help patients better understand the underlying implications of their conditions and how treatment can be applied to them, especially when she references pictures, videos or discharge instructions.

“I can also use my iPad in my practice to do electronic medical records,” she added. “I can walk around with my iPad all day, and multi-task between using my clinical reference tools to charting on that patient and documenting that encounter because our electronic medical record feature is web-based.”

Since 2008, Macauley has also served as director of the nursing school’s Simulation and Standardized Patient Nursing Laboratory, a state-of-the-art teaching and research laboratory that ensures graduating nurses are clinically ready for the “real world” of nursing. The unique educational resource is equipped with beds, examining tables, a trauma center, a nurse’s station and other equipment simulating hospital rooms and clinical settings.

Between 200 and 300 students use the 4,400-square-foot simulation lab every week. It even features robotic mannequins and actors trained to act as patients. A life-size mannequin, for example, can deliver a newborn infant in 10 minutes or 10 hours in a process that can be entirely routine or high-risk and fraught with problems. In a process of “360 degree” learning, the student’s performance is digitally recorded and evaluated by their peers, the clinical instructor and the patient actors.

“We are doing research on the most effective ways of teaching, grading and evaluating nursing students,” Macauley said. “Students learn how to take care of patients, they learn to be confident and competent about what they’re doing before they go to the clinical area,” Macauley said.

This summer both the lab and use of electronic devices are coming together. Macauley is collecting data the students reported on the nTrack application. “We are also expanding nTrack to include checklists to foster a connection between what we are teaching in the lab and how that co-relates to student performance in clinical settings. We are looking to see if what students are learning in our lab can be demonstrated in clinical settings.”

— Leslie Luna ‘07

Photographs by Colin Gilbert

  • Share/Bookmark