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International Nurses Day: Whitireia Nursing Tutor Highlights Smartphone Risks In Nursing Curriculum

Smartphones are a part of nursing education. Student nurses use smartphones to access textbooks, pharmacology resources, standards for practice and lots of other knowledge as part of their everyday learning. Particularly while they are in practical sessions, and need to quickly fact check what to do next in clinical situations.

Up until now, no-one has researched the downside of this digital reliance.

Belinda McGrath, who has taught first year nursing students at Whitireia for almost 15 years, has published international research with a group from Western Sydney University, Murdoch University and others, on the impacts of smartphones on nursing students.

The research, which looks at wellbeing and proposes a change, is a timely alignment with the International Council of Nurses’ focus for International Nurses Day on nurse wellbeing as part of transforming future healthcare.

Results incorporated from Korea, Turkey, India, Spain, the US, Iran, France, Canada and Egypt, found a concerning level of smartphone addiction among nursing students.

“So while the wonderful world of digital knowledge can be so helpful for students”, said Belinda, “the research found a worrying level of negative impacts that caused stress and anxiety, and adversely affected sleep, learning and academic performance, as a result of a reliance on this learning resource.

“It is essential we have the right policies in place to ensure a positive outcome from smartphone use as part of the nursing curriculum. We are currently doing research into this to inform development of policies and guidelines to address this which can complement the current Whitireia ICT policies.”

Belinda has been integral to developing the unique nursing curriculum at Whitireia over many years and is determined Whitireia stays at the cutting edge of teaching and learning in this sector.

“We were one of the first institutions to develop ‘concept based’ learning which pulled the theory and the practice of nursing together in ways which made sense to students. We were the first to set up a modern simulation lab so that nursing students could work hands-on, we introduced avatar technology, we have a strong focus on wellbeing, kindness, empathy and cultural responsiveness. We have strong relationships with health and medical providers to ensure our students get good and diverse placements. Research, such as the smartphone report, provides us with ways to ensure we continue to stay one step ahead.”

Carmel Haggerty, Head of School for Health & Social Services at Whitireia, added to this: “We are proud to offer three strong nursing degrees - Bachelor of Nursing Māori, a Bachelor of Nursing Pacific, and a Bachelor of Nursing. This is important for our contribution to diversity in the nursing workforce of Aotearoa New Zealand, and provides options for our students to pathway in ways which best suit them.”

“Belinda is a highly respected senior nursing tutor, who is passionate about ensuring the highest quality evidence is incorporated into her and her team’s educational practice,” says Carmel.

“I feel excited for aspiring nurses,” says Belinda. “‘There is so much opportunity out there with such a strong focus on healthcare due to the pandemic, an increasingly diverse range of professional pathways opening up, and a real emphasis on preventing stress and burn-out, the future is bright.”

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