The Department of Nursing and Midwifery is one of the largest in the country offering undergraduate, postgraduate and professional continuing education (CE) for nurses (adult, child, mental health and learning disability) and midwives. The Department sits within the Faculty of Health and Wellbeing and students include those studying physiotherapy, occupational therapy, radiography, paramedic practice and social work. This case study accounts for over 2,500 students with 24/7 access to an online program (Systems of eCare) extended across the course of study, having commenced in 2009.
The pervasive use of information and communications technology (ICT) in clinical and remote healthcare settings brings many challenges and new opportunities to all involved in healthcare, especially nurses, nurse leaders, nurse researchers and nurse educators. It also acts as a catalyst for needed changes in the curriculum to enable nurses to be fit for purpose having acquired the appropriate information skills, knowledge and attitudes. According to the Prime Minister’s Commission on the Future of Nursing and Midwifery in England 2010, "Making best use of technological advances is an increasingly important aspect of high quality care, including innovative ‘remote care’ approaches such as telenursing, as well as improving metrics... Starting in their initial education, nurses and midwives need a better understanding of and influence over the development of new technologies and informatics, including information and communications technology and remote care."
A further key driver in terms of the United Kingdom’s (UK) Higher Education development was that of widening the opportunity for independent study. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills 'Higher Ambitions' stated, "… the next phase of expansion in higher education will hinge on providing opportunities for different types of people to study in a wider range of ways than in the past. The focus will therefore be on a greater diversity of models of learning: part-time, work-based, foundation degrees, and studying whilst at home."
The degree status of nurses today appears to have the effect of moving registered nurses (RNs) one-step further away from direct patient contact; the role is changing toward that of coordinating an unregistered workforce, for which information management is paramount to ensure safe and effective patient care.
In information terms, nurses and midwives are the professional groups who have the most interaction with patients, their relatives and friends. This places nurses and midwives in a unique role amongst clinicians as the vital element link in the information infrastructure within healthcare. Since the early 1980s, there have been many arguments forwarded that confirm the need to prepare clinicians to take an active role in the development and use of information and communications technology.