How AI Is Transforming Nurse Education

In recent times, Artificial Intelligence (AI) programs have stepped into prominence. In every industry, everyone is speculating about the efficacy, ethics, and practicality of integrating AI into their business processes. In this regard, healthcare is no exception. Experts have already begun to explore AI’s applications in nurse education. Although we have not seen widespread adoption of AI in official school settings, that change may be closer than you think. How exactly can AI change healthcare education as we know it? Are there any concerns that need to be addressed, before AI-driven nurse education can be fully embraced? Below, we explore all this and more. 

What is AI? 

In case you are unaware, AI refers to computerized programs meant to synthesize data, facilitating independent and flexible problem-solving. Although it has always existed to some capacity, programs like ChatGPT provide a potent and (more importantly) publicly available AI chat service to the masses. On the lowest level, school children have turned to these AI chatbots to create entire multi-page essays on a variety of topics. In the bigger picture, AI (Artificial Intelligence) has disrupted and shifted multiple industries.

 How does AI affect nurse education? 

Though ChatGPT and its ilk are interesting resources, they are not “tailor-made” for a nurse education setting. As we speak, tech experts and programmers are creating AI tools and programs created specifically for clinical and classroom settings.

For example, certain programmers are using AI to create dynamic, adaptable simulations for nursing students. In real life, clinical work is not as controlled or scripted as laboratory experiments can be. To succeed, nurses need to adapt to ever-changing situations that can shift at any minute. In theory, Winston-Salem State University’s virtual reality (VR) clinical simulation addresses this head-on. During simulated care, AI creates dynamic and randomly generated patient scenarios that force nursing students to think on their toes. In theory, this lets students hone their spontaneous clinical decision-making within a controlled environment.

WSSU is not the only institution exploring this concept. Last year, The Ohio State University provided a substantial $1.5 million grant to a similar idea. OSU engineers are currently developing a nurse training software that blends “AI, Extended Reality (XR), and Machine Learning.” When they use this program, nurse students will be made to solve increasingly complex skills and problem-solving tests in a simulated clinical setting. AI and Machine Learning draw real patient data from Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center to generate realistic situations and problems that are never the same. Just like the WSSU VR program, this lets nurse students practice their clinical skills and high-level decision-making, without the stakes of real healthcare. 

What are the potential risks of AI in Nurse Education? 

The immediate hurdle between nursing schools and widespread AI adoption is overall tech literacy. For AI to be effectively adopted in a classroom setting, the faculty and the student body must have a certain level of knowledge and familiarity with AI as a concept, as well as the specific tools themselves. Nurse education institutions have to invest in training and educating students and faculty alike, about any new technology that gets adopted and implemented. 

Then certain ethical problems arise with the widespread use of AI. For instance: ChatGPT draws and synthesizes content from all over the internet, without proper citation or credit. In the case of OSU’s advanced simulation software, there is no issue whatsoever. The AI and Machine Learning programs are drawing from OSU’s patient data. Moving forward, AI use must conform to a set of guidelines and boundaries. The uncritical can lead to ethical quandaries regarding fair use and academic integrity. 

Does AI belong in Nursing Education? 

Moving forward, the development of nurse education AI has to be overseen by the nurse educators themselves. They have to develop these programs with the aforementioned ethical concerns in mind. If they want to effectively make use of AI tools in a nurse education setting, they need to change their pedagogy and approach to prepare nursing students for its use. Like any tool, AI is neither inherently good nor is it unequivocally bad. If harnessed incorrectly, it can be an inconvenience that causes more harm than good. It can take nurse education to the next level when used correctly and with proper oversight.

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