Are We Missing Out on Beneficial Learning Applications? Mobile Apps Used by Consumers That Should be Used by Nursing Education

By: Donna Guerra

“There’s an app for that!” More than ever before, mobile applications are powerful tools mainstreamed into the daily life of consumers. The most recent statistics indicate that 2.9 million mobile applications are available for android in the Google Play Store (Clement, 2020), with 1.8 million applications available for iOS in the Apple App Store (Costello, 2020). From mobile banking to entertainment, consumers use applications on smartphones, tablets, and computers for any number of activities. Is nursing education harnessing all the benefits of technology in the form of applications?

A variety of medical-based applications are available to help nursing students learn concepts for clinical practice support and reinforce didactic teaching. Learning apps used by nurse educators are categorized according to four groupings: educator support, learner support, performance support, and learning activities (Pilcher, 2016). Examples include:

· Repository applications for diseases, diagnostic testing, medications, and procedures important to nursing

· Medical news, US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announcements, and continuing education (CE) course offerings

· EKG interpretation

· NCLEX study apps

· Presentation apps

To provide students with mobile resources rich in study and nursing skills, nurse educators can also tap into applications used by students in other fields of study.

Applications for Study Skills

As nursing students begin their coursework, they are often challenged to think, study, and test in ways they have never confronted before. As transitioning to a different study model may be difficult for students, who have never had to commit the time and concentration that nursing demands, they may find time management and productivity applications useful. For example, students easily distracted by technology may benefit from applications that include website, application, text messaging, phone call, and other notification blockers to improve productivity and time management.

Educators may find it helpful to recommend dictation, writing, and editing applications for students who have difficulty writing. These applications may be of particular interest to graduate students whose programs of study require extensive writing assignments.

Applications for Clinical Concepts

Nurse educators are charged to help students develop nursing clinical skills and use clinical judgment, to “think like a nurse.” Students may find the latter difficult and abstract until they spend more time and gain experience in the clinical setting. Concept or mind mapping applications, that require students to organize and analyze information through graphic displays, can facilitate learning to identify and link key concepts .

Commercial applications, such as iTunes U by Apple, contain a variety of mobile courses and lectures that students can access to reinforce classroom content and difficult concepts. Nurse

educators can also use these applications to take advantage of a diverse selection of teaching strategy and curriculum development videos. Podcasts provide a number of audio series focused on nursing issues and specialties. Users can easily download the podcast episodes on their mobile devices and listen at any time, with or without wi-fi access.

Bookmarking applications are also an excellent resource. They can be installed on mobile devices to keep track of nursing websites and articles necessary for class assignments or for reference to evidence-based clinical practice guidelines when working clinically.

Nurse educators can use mobile applications already used by consumers to recommend to students or enrich their own teaching. Students have demonstrated engagement with mobile applications, and a positive correlation has been shown between the use of apps and increased learning with a focus on clinical topics (O’Connor & Andrews, 2018), so adding a more robust range of options for students can be helpful. Another appealing feature of these applications is that most can be used free of charge, good news for students and educators alike. Some apps, however, require users to sign up for an account to use certain features.


Clement, J. (2020, February 5). Google play: Number of available apps. Statista.

Costello, S. (2020, February 24). How many apps are in the app store? Lifewire.

O’Connor, S. & Andrews, T. (2018). Smartphones and mobile applications (apps) in clinical nursing education: A student perspective. Nurse Education Today, 69, 172-178.

Pilcher, J. (2016). Mobile apps for educational purposes. Journal for Nurses in Professional Development, 32(6), 306-308.

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