Guest Editorial: Vitamins, Supplements, and a Box Full of Cords

By Kristopher R Filey RN

CITATION: Filey, K. R. (Fall, 2019). Vitamins, Supplements and a Box Full of Cords. Online Journal of Nursing Informatics (OJNI), 23(3). Available at http://www.himss.org/ojni

Abstract

This editorial is part of a graduate-level nursing school assignment. It explores the balance that nurses need to find when using technology to reach their goals. This article is a first-person perspective on how a nurse can be overwhelmed by the options available to them to incorporate technology in their practice. The goal of this editorial is to address the emotions involved in the process of incorporating technology in practice and recognizing the value that technology can provide. Through the use of metaphor and humor, the editorial shows the need to keep technology as a support not the main course.

There is a certain aisle in the grocery store that gives me much trepidation; you know the one. You turn the corner from the bright and colorful land of morning cereal and descend into the Grand Canyon of health products. Four-inch tall plastic bottles line the shelves as far as the eye can see; they contain supplements, vitamins, herbs, minerals, medicines, elixirs of life, the fountain of youth, and the pills that will make you smarter, prettier, funnier, and part demigod. I am a nurse, trained and schooled in the areas of healthcare and nutrition, and I cannot take the overwhelming nature of this aisle. I move with a pace that reeks of avoidance. I concentrate on not making eye contact with any one bottle so as not to give away that my knees do hurt, and I really should be taking glucosamine and chondroitin. I keep my pace because I do not want to be drawn into a purchase that will inevitably be added to my collection of misfit four-inch bottles; many of which probably have expiration dates that have come and gone.

What does this have to do with nursing informatics you ask? There is an eerie similarity between that collection of misfit four-inch bottles and another drawer in most of our homes; you know the one. The drawer of misfit cords and technology. Cords that at one time connected to the newest technology that we had to have. The cord to the toy that was going to bring great joy to our children, the camera that had a number of megapixels that was going to blow our mind, the earbuds that would play megabytes of music, the charger that should power the electronic picture frame we never set up, and the remote control that controlled … what did this thing go to?

The point: technology is like vitamins, it has the potential and promise of great benefit but often results in expense (and colorful) waste.

I currently teach in a baccaulereate nursing program. The number of technology options that can be incorporated into the classroom is dizzying. Studies come out, on what seems like a daily basis, touting the benefits of using this app, that program, or this type of social media. Shifting through what can be used, the expense of doing so, the best application of the technology, the learning curve for teacher and student, and whether or not it is worth it in the end is overwhelming. The average teacher ends up with a cart full of products and very little time to incorporate it all. You do not want to have to juggle 20 individual apps? No problem, we have the perfect multivitamin approach in our convenient catchall learning management system. Of course, you will never fully learn every aspect of this behemoth program, and by the beginning of next semester, we will have a drastic update that will reduce your understanding of the program to near zero.

But yet, despite my cynicism, buried in there is benefit. Education should be fun, interactive and stimulating. We have the ability to make it so more than ever before. We have the ability to address various learning styles seamlessly. We can visually stimulate with video and imagery. We can kinetically stimulate through simulation. We can interactively teach in the classroom with live online games and participation. Virtual reality can allow us to walk through ancient buildings, sit in on surgeries, take care of patients, and travel through the cosmos. The limit of what we can do is governed only by our imagination.

The point we cannot lose sight of is that vitamins do not replace food. A supplement’s purpose is to fill in a gap or add to the core of a matter, not supersede it. Technology needs to support our patient care, help us fill in gaps in our understanding, and show us how to strengthen our ethical principles. The management of these supplements cannot be allowed to absorb any more time and energy than necessary. How do we determine exactly what that means? I am sure there is an app for that.

 

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