Today’s healthcare industry sees pocket drug reference books being replaced by smartphone applications that enhance the access time and portability of vital information. Online tools for nursing, especially mobile technology, is on the rise. The best online tools and technology are those that minimize medical errors, improve clinical workflow, educate, and enhance a nurse’s overall understanding of the field. However, with what seems like an endless stream of new technology, it’s easy to get lost when trying to determine the best investment.
New technology for nurses, such as apps for mobile devices, can be a great asset or an enormous waste, and for the nurse looking to spend his or her time (and money) wisely, it’s important to have an idea of what really works beforehand.
When choosing to incorporate online tools and technology into a nursing career; it’s not about how many of the “best” downloads and purchases a nurse makes – it’s about selecting the technology that actually simplifies nursing duties, enhances patient care, and effectively educates.
According to Heath Erickson, RN, a Clinical Solution Consultant at PatientSafe Solutions, studies have found that nurses spend less than 20% of their time on direct patient care, which is “largely attributable to technology which does not support their workflow well, administrative duties, documentation, task management, and care team coordination.”
“Rather than bog them down,” he says, “nurses need solutions that can actually help them to do what they do best: deliver high-quality care throughout the patient experience, safely and efficiently.”
Erickson, who has worked as a clinical specialist for technology companies for more than seven years, also says that today’s emerging mobile platforms now enable nurses to save time and energy by offering quick access to patient data, positive identification of patients, safe performance of critical workflows, and effective communication amongst care team members during bedside care and beyond.
However, as new online nursing tools and resources continue to flood the market, sifting through all of the selections can become an overwhelming task. Let’s take smartphone and tablet apps, for example; there are more than 10,000 healthcare related apps found on the iTunes store alone.
How does a nurse whittle down the tens of thousands of online tools available with the click of a button?
Dawn Cheairs, VP of Strategic Partnerships for DohJe, Inc., suggests keeping an ear to the ground.
“In my research for building DohJe…” says Cheairs, who markets a tool that allows nurses to directly receive, respond to and store inspirational notes/photos online, “…nursing students have indicated that educators and fellow students are the best way to find out about new apps and online technology.”
The following list also touches upon some of the most popular and best online tools for a nursing career:
Tablet and Smartphone Apps for Nurses
Medscape Mobile App
Those who sign up with Medscape gain free access to a website, and medical app for the iPad, iPhone, Kindle Fire, and Android devices. The app offers the latest medical news (including targeted information for more than 30 medical specialties); FDA announcements; conference news; journal articles from leading publications; point-of-care decision-making tools (such as medical calculators and drug references); and continuing education coursework related to more than 1,000 topics.
PatientSafe Solutions develops PatientTouch, smartphone technology built into iPod Touch and iPhone 5 hardware that optimize the amount of time nurses can spend with patients. According to a 12-site study measuring the application’s effectiveness on patient safety, the technology led to a 99% reduction of medication errors.
Nurses using PatientTouch receive three primary services: PPID (positive patient identification) through barcode verification at the point of care; the ability to collaborate and communicate with in-network clinicians over a secure system; and the capability to carry and edit patient records without having to leave a patient’s bedside – all while using a device that fits inside of their pocket.
Offering a high-tech drug reference guide, Epocrates connects nurses to a free, multi-use smartphone app that functions as an instant pill identifier, medical match calculator, and supplier of drug interaction data. The drug reference tool includes brand, generic, and OTC medications. Epocrates Rx for Apple iOS also includes their Mobile Resource Centers, and a handful of extra features for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. EpocratesRX for iPad is specifically designed to provide extra features for iPad users.
Nurses may also opt for a year-long paid subscription to Epocrates’ Essentials for $159.99 – an all-in-one clinical reference suite that includes drug/disease monographs and diagnostic tools.
Both the free and paid app is also available for Android devices through Google Play.
Available for any iOS mobile device and the web, nurses who are on-the-move possess one of the most widely-used and trusted medical references through the Merck Manuals (from Unbound Medicine) for $49.95. Providing up-to-date, useful information for healthcare workers, this online tool is considered one of the best for helping nurses to treat and care for patients.
iPad users will encounter a Universal Index Search; receive tips, notifications and updates; gain access to recently viewed information and Favorites on their home screen, and enjoy side-by-side reading and navigation panes. Nurses may choose from the standalone app, or bundle with the Merck Manual of Patient Symptoms, and Davis’s Drug Guide for a higher cost.
As one of the standards in nursing drug references, Davis’ DrugGuide™ aims to increase safe practice and effective patient care by providing easy access to more than 800 built-in drug dosing calculation tools, as well as audio pronunciations for nearly 890 generic drugs. Nurses can easily review a drug, calculate the dose, and then administer in one swoop without having to switch to a separate drug dosing program. Other highlights include information on 500 commonly used combination drugs; expanded coverage on herbal products; and drug dosing considerations for adult, pediatric and geriatric patients. The app is available for Apple, BlackBerry, and Android devices.
As one of the most popular and comprehensive medical calculator online tools for nurses, MedCalc 3000 Complete covers more than 520 relevant medical formulas, decision tree tools, and dose/unit converters. Helping to reduce the number of medical errors in hospitals, the medical reference, and tool set allows a nurse to view the likes of Corticosteroid Medication Dosing Conversions, calculate Adult Body Mass Index, and determine an NIH Stroke Score all in one convenient place.
MedCalc3000 apps are available for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad for $9.99, and for Android, Blackberry, and Windows Phone devices.
With nearly 200 nursing apps that accommodate various platforms, Skyscape provides a wide range of general nursing tools and mobile resources that also include targeted apps for nurse anesthetists, medical-surgical nurses, and other specialties.
Some apps are free, while others are priced up to over $150.
Popular tablet apps for nurses on Skyscape include:
Offering both purchase and rental options, Skyscape sells a clinically-concentrated laboratory guide called Labs 360°, which aids nurses in gaining a better understanding of tests (and their clinical significance), and how a specific test can aid in patient diagnosis and treatment. Labs 360° is considered one of the best online tools for providing the most extensive and relevant diagnostic and clinical information pertaining to medical tests for use in a point of care environment.
Specifically developed for use on Apple (iOS 5.1 or higher), Android (2.1 or higher), Blackberry (4.1 to 7) and Windows PC, updates are available every 4-6 weeks – all of which are free during the term of a subscription.
A recommended product for a nurse practitioner to invest in is Skyscape NP Suite, which includes 12 resources contained in an all-encompassing mobile app. Nurses gain access to the very popular 5-Minute Clinical Consult; MobileDDx™ (Differential Diagnosis Tool); drug guides (covering thousands of brands and generics with pill images and over 400 integrated dosing calculators); formulas; algorithms; and advanced search options. Priced at $184.95, this app is available for the iPhone/iPod Touch, Android devices, and BlackBerry.
Online Study Tools for Nurses
Used by over 4 million students, StudyBlue is a mobile and online learning platform that allows a nurse to review notecards, self-quiz, and keep track of his or her progress. Helpful for nursing students and those who wish to continue their education while working in the field, the free study app for iPhone and Android has been described as presenting a personalized “digital backpack” that caters to the individual learning needs of users. Depending on a device, a convenient voice-to-text feature for the online flashcards also enhances a nurse’s ability to incorporate images, videos, text, and sound.
Online ‘Medical Games’ and Exercises for Nurses
Who would have thought that the official website for the Nobel Prize would offer such an entertaining outlet for nurses seeking to expand their minds and gain a better understanding of significant medical concepts? Nobelprize.org is home to an assortment of online learning opportunities for nurses in the form of fun games, such as the popular Blood Typing Game, Electrocardiogram Game, the Malaria Mosquito and Parasite Games and the Immune System Game.
English Med is a medical multimedia online tool that concentrates on the study of language as it pertains to the medical field. In addition to providing thousands of word exercises, articles, and tests for doctors, pharmacists and general healthcare workers, the site also has a section that specifically caters to the needs of nurses. The reading, writing, speaking, and listening exercises all help a nurse improve their ability to effectively communicate with patients, doctors, and co-workers.
Offering interactive and fun study challenges that allow student nurses to move at their own pace, Free Nurse Tutor does not require an account or login details for participation. In the Game Room, nursing students will find free games, such as Falling Facts, the Match Game, ‘Nursing Care’ Hangman, and the site’s version of the game show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.
Online Research Tools for Nurses
The Henderson Repository is a free resource associated with the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International (‘STTI’), which provides professionals with full access to what is known as one of the most comprehensive online libraries for nurses.
A basic search opens the gateway to an assortment of global journal and article abstracts from an array of peer-reviewed research sources. Those who are logged in can view full articles, as well as gain access to research studies, innovations, conference presentations, and evidence-based projects.
There is also no charge for nurse authors to submit their own work.
Providing a collection of ‘News by Specialty’ medical articles and peer reviewed clinical journals, NurseLinx.com is an offshoot of the award-winning website, MDLinx.com. The easy and accessible viewing capabilities that users enjoy are made possible by a team that sorts, ranks, and summarizes healthcare journal articles and news for easier digestion of information. With free registration, a nurse is able to stay current on the latest literature, research, and clinical news pertaining to his or her field.
Online Video Libraries for Nurses
Regarded as one of the best online video libraries for nurses and nursing students, the University of Maryland Medical Center has a free, easy-to-navigate collection of “high-quality, professionally edited and produced videos” that includes cutting-edge research topics, the latest technological advancements, and nursing procedures. The University also offers access to Webcasts that generally concentrate on the latest medical and surgical techniques; and an Audio Library with podcasts regarding topics such as Cancer, Digestive Health, and Pediatrics. Automatic updates related to the video library reach busy nurses who have subscribed to the University’s YouTube channel.
Interactive Tools for Nurses
Bringing the different systems of the body to life, the detailed, high-quality imagery of Visible Body puts the typical anatomy text book or poster to shame. Regarded as one of the best online tools for nurses looking to enhance his or her understanding and knowledge of anatomy and physiology, the application provides a 3-D, interactive look at the human body with the help of stunning animations and illustrations. For example, Visible Body Anatomy and Function for the iPad presents more than 500 preset 3D views into the human body, which can be rotated, zoomed in on, and even dissected.
The site also provides study guides for the muscular, skeletal, heart, and circulatory systems.
With more than 10 versions of Visible Body available (such as Skeleton Premium and Human Anatomy Atlas), iPad owners are the only users who can currently gain access to all of them, while select titles are available for the iPhone, Android, PC, Mac and/or even on, Facebook.
Offering the opportunity for nurses to communicate with other medical professionals in a timely manner, Skype is a software program that facilitates voice and video calls between computers, tablets and smartphones with web access, as well as voice calls from computers to regular telephones not connected to the Internet. This type of communication can take place anywhere in the world.
Skype’s videoconferencing capabilities not only encourage enhanced dialogue and communication between healthcare employees, but also allow nurses to improve a patient’s experience while in their care.
Medical facilities, such as UCSF Children’s Hospital and UCSF Medical Center, use Skype to keep patients in their birthing suites, skilled nursing units, and children’s hospitals in touch with family. Nurses have also used Skype to set up call centers on laptops and tablets in nursing homes to keep residents, families, and staff members connected with loved ones.
Combining VoIP calling, alarm notification, and text messaging, Voalte One is an all-in-one smartphone alternative (for clinical use only) that enhances communication between nurses. Benefits of using the system include decreased wait times, faster call-bell responses, keeping in touch with the Head Unit Coordinator, identifying ‘busy’ or ‘available’ co-workers, and creating an overall quieter hospital environment for patients.
Voalte ensures patient privacy and accountability by having caregivers sign into shared smartphones using a unique password; data encryption keeps patient information private.
And, Voalte technology is quickly catching on. For example, WakeMed Cary Hospital recently became the first healthcare system in the Carolinas to invest in the company’s smartphone system. One-hundred Apple iPhones that only work within the WakeMed wireless network were given to inpatient nurses at the hospital, replacing the archaic ‘companion’ phone or pager method of communication between nurses.
Another product under the Voalte umbrella includes Voalte Me, which allows nurses to engage in secure texting both inside and outside of a hospital.
“The online pre-admission system, One Medical Passport, significantly reduces the amount of time nurses spend playing phone tag with patients and conducting lengthy pre-admission screenings,” says Patricia Churchwell, RN, BA, and President of Premier Healthcare Consulting. “The systems’ online questionnaire guides patients to create a health history at a time and place that is convenient for them.”
Doctors and nurses who have access to a complete and accurate medical history are better able to deliver the best care possible to patients. One Medical Passport does not require the installation of any hardware or software – everything occurs over the Internet – providing a fast, secure method of sending and receiving vital medical details which helps increase the efficiency of overall patient care.
“Nurses quickly verify information, then once approved, clinical forms are generated by the system and made available to staff facility-wide,” continues Churchwell. “It significantly reduces time spent on document management, instruction and the dissemination of information to patients, allowing nurses to focus more on patients and less on administrative tasks.”
Online Job Sites and Networking for Nurses
Post a resume and browse jobs by category when using the Nursing Jobs Plus website manned by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a leading international publisher of professional health information for nurses, students, and other healthcare professionals.
In addition to highlighting nursing career fields and providing access to thousands of healthcare job openings, Monster.com has created a nursing community where users can also sound off on forums, ask questions, and gain expert advice.
This nurse-targeted online job board allows users to search for employment opportunities by keyword, location, and job type. Logged-in jobseekers can store and post resumes/cover letters, as well as sign up for job alert email notifications according to a nurse’s search preferences and criteria.
Providing resources for job seekers, as well as those who need to complete continuing education (CE) credits, nurses use this site to search for available job opportunities by discipline, specialty, and state.
Specializing in connecting RNs with leading healthcare organizations across the U.S., this nursing job board offers comprehensive listings of nursing career options that include permanent placements, per diems, and travel nursing jobs.
Online One-Stop Shop for Nurses
Created by nurses, Lippincott’s Nursing Center is a virtual playland for nursing professionals, as the site provides access to a wealth of clinical information, educational tools, research data, and nurse-recommended leads for job hunters.
The website is well-stocked with peer-reviewed journals, eBooks, job listings, specialty information, and targeted newsletter subscriptions. Lippincott’s Nursing Center is considered one of the best online “one-stop” sites for nurses looking to stay in the know with industry related news and healthcare advancements, as well as take advantage of networking opportunities. An Events Calendar lists key nursing and healthcare conferences, whereas the E-Conference Center addresses relevant online conferences and webinars.
Nurses can also browse topical collections of CE activities (available at discounted prices); and the site’s CESaver program allows nurses to earn up to 100 contact hours for only $34.95.