Title : Smartphone application for learning medical terminology and improving academic performance in vocational nursing students
Medical terminology and health literacy are a critical competency for all healthcare professionals. Fluency in basic medical terminology is not just about communications but is also about professional competency. The value of understanding and focusing on science-related academic language/terminology beginning in primary school has been recognized for nearly 30 years to improve students’ academic performances by various disciplines within science education. Conversely, nursing education has not addressed whether understanding medical terminology plays a significant role in nursing students’ academic performance. Only two nursing research studies have looked at this issue, one in 1985 and the other in 1992, to determine if nursing schools should include an educational methodology to help their students master basic medical terminology.
Medical terminology learned out of context can easily become meaningless signs and symbols, and foster stress in nursing students learning. Core Value 5 emphasizes teaching nursing students with their well-being given priority. Given the availability and capabilities of today’s technology, the aim of this study was to determine if a smartphone application with instructor-controlled basic medical terminology content could be utilized by nursing students to assist with supporting their academic performance in multiple nursing courses. Access to simple adjunctive educational methodologies can improve academic performance. Without this education, students will continue to struggle with the integration of medical terminology through their academic programs. When learning is easier and student performance improves, nursing students’ stress level and quality of life may improve, and nursing schools may experience less attrition.
This posttest only, quasi-experimental quantitative research study attempts to determine if a focused adjunctive education to learn basic medical terminology utilizing a smartphone application would improve vocational nursing students’ academic performance. The experimental student group (N = 25) was provided access to 635 medical terms via a smartphone application during their anatomy and physiology, nursing fundamentals, pharmacology, and medical-surgical nursing courses. The control student group (N = 19) were the cohort of vocational nursing students without access to the smartphone application. The two vocational nursing student cohorts’ overall academic performances were compared for two consecutive 12-week academic terms to determine if there was a significant difference in the course grades between the students who accessed the smartphone medical terminology educational application and the students who did not have access.
Although the sample size for this study is considered small by traditional statistical methods, significant insights can be demonstrated and easily seen in the closer inspection of the A&P course standard deviation, the pharmacology course standard deviation, and raw students’ scores collected during the first four required nursing courses. The nursing students with access to the smartphone medical terminology educational application did demonstrate an improvement in individual student academic performance in A&P in comparison to the control group. Without additional use of the smartphone application experimental student grades demonstrated an improvement in comparison to the control group in Pharmacology.
Conclusions and Implications
Nursing students are expected to learn medical terminology through immersion in their coursework. Learning vocabulary using immersion strategies and are expected use of textbook glossaries used by nursing schools provided only a minimum learning and low retention of new terminology. Immersion and incidental exposure are inefficient, ineffective, and unreliable methodologies for learning vocabulary. Surveys show college students use their smartphones for accessing 82% of their collegiate related tasks. Current digitally native primary school students expect their secondary and postsecondary educational institutions to utilize, at minimum, currently available education technologies.
This research study utilizes a smartphone device as the delivery methodology for the adjunctive education for learning basic medical terminology. The utilization of a smartphone application for the delivery of this educational intervention was chosen due to the expectations of today’s postsecondary students. The data demonstrated a positive effect on the academic performance of nursing students.
Nursing schools should incorporate more educational technologies to create adjunctive educational tools into the didactic curriculum to improve academic performance, which has the potential to improve the quality of life for nursing students and potential assistance for nursing schools to improve retention.