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New education technologies will help nursing students prepare for the workforce

At SXSWedu, Elsevier’s President of Education explains how nursing education will benefit from adaptive technology and machine learning

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Scott Smith, President of Education at Elsevier, spoke about Elsevier’s approach to technology in nursing education at SXSWedu, an edtech conference in Austin, Texas. (Background © istockphoto.com/Kirill_Savenko)

Editor’s note: This month, we are exploring the theme “from science to society” – how research and innovation are making a difference in all aspects of life, including healthcare. With the growing importance of RNs in the healthcare system – and a global shortage of nurses – it’s crucial to provide the best training possible to nursing students so they can succeed in this demanding profession. Here, Scott Smith, President of Education at Elsevier, talks about how we’re using adaptive learning technologies based on machine learning and artificial intelligence to give nursing students a more personalized education.


Americans are living longer but not necessarily better.

Combine that with many other socioeconomic factors, and you’ll understand why the US healthcare system – and the healthcare education system – is under a lot of pressure, according to Scott Smith, President of Education at Elsevier:

Americans are facing more health challenges with age. One in four Americans over the age of 65 has diabetes, and 40 percent are obese. More than 50 percent take medication for hypertension. Americans are living longer with chronic diseases. As a result, our healthcare system is and will remain under tremendous pressure to provide care for these evolving dynamics of our population.

Smith made these comments in March at SXSWedu, a popular international “edtech” (education and technology) conference in Austin, Texas. He focused on how Elsevier and other companies are responding to those pressures with new technologies.

Smith’s group will also be at the upcoming ASU+GSV Summit in Salt Lake City, Utah, with Lori Sypher, Elsevier’s Sales Director for private sector schools, speaking on a related topic: “Preparing Tomorrow’s Health Professional’s Using Innovative Technologies.”

Nurses are crucial to the US healthcare system

With chronic diseases on the rise and the nation’s lawmakers revamping how Americans will pay for their care, the location of care is also changing in a manner that put patients at the center of a constellation of care providers, many of whom are nurses.

Healthcare employers are looking to higher education institutions to supply more doctors and nurses than ever before, Smith said. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts strong employment for healthcare professionals. Healthcare-related careers account for about half of the country's fastest growing occupations – 21 of the top 25, and 8 of the top 10.

“The reality is that as a society and as an education system, we are not reaching and educating the numbers needed to fill these roles,” Smith said. The BLS predicts that by 2022, there will be about 1 million vacancies for the 3.2 million registered nurse jobs.

This is where technology can help, Smith said.

How interactive tools and adaptive learning create better outcomes

“At Elsevier, we feel we have a credible vantage point of this problem,” Smith said. “This is precisely the type of challenge that we like to take on. At Elsevier Education, we believe the right platform, tools and interactive resources can drive positive outcomes and keep students on track for success.”

By applying the latest developments in learning science – including adaptive technologies, machine learning and artificial intelligence – information providers like Elsevier are giving nursing schools tools that help nurse educators and their students achieve better outcomes on their high-stakes tests, the ones used to certify new nurses and make sure they are ready for practice. For example, Sherpath gives students a personalized learning experience by detecting areas of weakness and providing relevant content, assessments and remediation tools.

“Venues like SXSWedu give Elsevier and other information providers the opportunity to discuss these challenges openly — often leading to individuals and other organizations looking to combine strengths to more effectively attack these challenges,” Smith said.

“We believe it’s critical for higher education institutions to invest in interactive education technologies that support instructors, students and college administrators. They should also be working to engage digitally savvy students through highly interactive content they can access and review at their own pace.”

Colleges and universities should be helping educators monitor in real time how students are grasping key concepts, allowing for early intervention with the adaptive content and corresponding analytics, he told the audience.

Technology in the classroom will also familiarize students with the technology they will need to operate and utilize to be successful in the outpatient and inpatient setting.

What is Sherpath?

Sherpath is a personalized digital teaching and learning system built specifically for healthcare education. Sherpath is available in both nursing education and medical assisting education. The collection of content for nursing includes Nursing Fundamentals, Health Assessment, Drug Calculations, Pharmacology, Medical-Surgical, Maternal Newborn and Pediatric. For more information, please see Sherpath on Evolve.

Empowering Knowledge pageFrom science to society

Research on science and health plays a huge role in our daily lives. This month of May 2017, we are featuring stories that showcase the theme "from science to society," beginning with how Texas A&M is using innovative tools and metrics to track the impact of its research to drive its 2020 vision. For more stories about people and projects empowered by knowledge, we invite you to visit Empowering Knowledge.

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