Turning Health Education on Its Digital Head

Students use technology to share nursing knowledge around the globe

By Hillel Kuttler

When Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing student Shehzin Mozammel began researching healthcare concerns in her native country of Bangladesh, she discovered that the country’s government is beginning to address HIV/AIDS, and figured that she could lend a hand.

“If there is one way I can give back, it’s a start,” she said. “I’m only one person, but I feel I can make an impact, even a revolution.”

Mozammel and four classmates in last semester’s Information Technology in Nursing course produced a slide show that outlines the disease’s spread among Bangladesh’s migrant workers and rickshaw drivers and offers basic information for healthcare workers and patients—even instructions for applying a condom.

The presentation is one of 10 group podcasts and narrated slide shows the class produced. Others address such health concerns as HIV/AIDS in South Africa, pediatric gastrointestinal disease and swine flu in China, and prenatal healthcare among Hispanic-American women. All take into account cultural sensitivities, with many narrated in the recipients’ languages.

For example, Holly Ohayon foresees her group’s Spanish-language slide show on improving nutrition and exercise among pregnant Hispanic Americans in Baltimore as usable in compact disc form. Either digital version represents “a new medium for people to obtain information,” she said.

The podcasts and slide shows are available digitally on the school’s Global Alliance for Nursing and Midwifery Electronic Community of Practice, a platform that allows medical professionals worldwide to exchange knowledge even under low-bandwidth conditions.

The students’ work reflects an evolution in the course, said Patricia Abbott, PhD, RN, FAAN, FACMI, co-director of the school’s Collaborating Center for Knowledge, Information Management, and Sharing.

“I just thought, ‘Let’s do a project that will benefit the outside world,’” she explained. “All of our students say, ‘I want to make a difference.’ [They] took this and flew with it.”

The experience of producing a digital education module “definitely is applicable to my future career as a nurse,” Mozammel said. The group’s project, she added, is both a resource for advancing health education among Bangladeshis and adaptable to reach patients elsewhere.

“As Bangladesh starts to move forward in technology, a simple PowerPoint presentation can be used to affect so many people,” Mozammel said.

Abbott is energized by the course’s digital turn. “The end users in any healthcare system will always be nurses, so [the students’] input will help create success in the future,” she said. “It comes down to new-world educating, and saying, ‘It’s not your mother’s nursing anymore.’”

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