International cooperation provides new ideas for the teaching and learning of nursing

Experiences Erasmus+ Erasmus+ for higher education
Although the clients of health care today know more about their health than they used to, healthcare professionals are needed to guide them in finding the right information, using the equipment and applying the information in practice. Thanks to the DigiNurse model and the DigiNurse community, future healthcare professionals gain new capabilities for the digital guidance of patients.
People in a meeting

Nowadays, many clients of health care have extensive knowledge about health promotion and the treatment of diseases. They search for information online and try to improve their condition on the basis of the information they find. 

How could future healthcare professionals better support and guide patients in self-care in a digital operating environment? This is the question a 3-year international Strategic Partnership under Erasmus+ for Higher Education set out to find answers to.

“The need to develop digital competence in nursing was based on our curriculum for nursing education. When we looked at the curriculum, we noticed that the teaching provided in the digital guidance of patients and health promotion was fragmented,” says Raija Kokko, Project Manager and Lecturer at Tampere University of Applied Sciences (TAMK), which coordinates the project.

The project was aimed at developing a model to support the digital self-care of patients for nursing education. The model would be used across Europe.

“The project proved to be extremely topical as there is currently a great need for remote guidance of patients everywhere in Europe,” Kokko says.

The working group of the three-year project consisted of higher education institutions from Slovenia, Belgium and Portugal, and Tampere University of Applied Sciences and Karelia University of Applied Sciences from Finland. Healthcare organisations from all of the participating countries were involved.

The result is a uniform model to be used in teaching

In the project, the working group first selected the key concepts related to digital guidance of patients and carried out literature reviews to support the theoretical concepts.

“The model was built with the help of intense discussions and experiments and its different areas were piloted and assessed with teachers and students by collecting feedback. Students were involved in piloting the model from the very beginning,” Raija Kokko explains.

As a result of the collaboration, the DigiNurse model for nursing education was developed. The model provides future healthcare professionals with capabilities for the digital guidance of a chronically ill patient.

The model is based on creating trust and an interactive relationship with the patient.

“The practices emphasised in digital communication are different from those in face-to-face meetings. Even if the healthcare professional encounters the patient only very briefly, the patient’s own resources can be supported and strengthened by creating trust and good interaction,” Raija Kokko explains.

The experiences gained by piloting the model were very positive.

“All partner countries conducted the trials in a slightly different way. In Belgium, they even had time to practice using the model with a patient. We noticed that, in spite of the different starting points, resources, the students’ starting level and the number of hours that could be used for teaching, it was possible to apply the model to very different needs.”

Thoughts can be exchanged in a European community

Another important result from the project was the European DigiNurse community, in which new research on the digital guidance of patients can be introduced to professionals in the field of nursing and thoughts on the subject can be exchanged. In January 2021, an e-book in English will be published which includes both theory and practical examples of how the model can be applied.

“We noticed that it is not possible to provide comprehensive instructions. Instead, we compiled recommendations and advice that everyone can apply to their needs,” Raija Kokko says.

The project teaches international cooperation

During the project, Raija Kokko noticed cultural differences in nursing education in the different European countries. For example, she found differences in the teaching methods and the instructions given to students.

“It was challenging to work on a shared model as we are rather different although all of us are Europeans,” Kokko explains.

Although this was not the first time Raija Kokko was doing international teaching work, the long project taught the experienced teacher of nursing new kind of international cooperation.

“Leading such a long project took me deeper into different cultures than my previous experiences. Although we sometimes disagreed during the long discussions, we always reached a consensus in the end,” Raija Kokko says.

During the DigiNurse project, the project partners convened using a remote connection on a monthly basis. Before coronavirus, they also met face-to-face every six months. Because of coronavirus, the last important meeting of the project was organised as a webinar in November last year.

“The meetings increased all participants’ understanding and ability to collaborate. Face-to-face meetings are important in addition to remote meetings because they often enable the participants to reach a deeper level in the discussions than when the meeting is virtual.”

Concentrate on choosing the partners carefully

You should concentrate carefully on writing the project application and choosing the partners, Raija Kokko advises other project leaders and writers of project applications.

“You should not be too idealistic when you start. You should also take into account that the resources of the project will not cover all of the activities. You may have to also use your own time in the project.”

“You should use time for discussions with the partners so that you can choose diverse competence and reliable and cooperative partners to the working group. The division of work between the partners should also be dealt with in the beginning,” Kokko says.

According to Raija Kokko, TAMK’s role as the coordinator of the project was bigger than originally planned, but it did not disturb the smooth running of the work.

“Perhaps we could have delegated work more than we did. However, the parties of the project were in constant contact and had the opportunity to comment.”

The DigiNurse network is growing

According to Raija Kokko, it is still too early to predict what kind of impact the new DigiNurse model and community will have on nursing education in Europe.

“The model has now been piloted together with students, and teachers in different countries can apply it in their own ways. I believe that many of them will get new ideas for their work. During the project, we have also disseminated a lot of information in our network. It can be used in the teaching and learning of digital guidance of patients.”

The DigiNurse network is growing even though the project has already ended. TAMK’s project group coordinates the DigiCare project in Asia and the group has the SmartNurse project in Latin America.

“The DigiNurse project made it possible to create a global community for exchanging ideas and developing the nursing education. Thanks to the projects, the continuity of the network has been secured for the next few years,” Raija Kokko says.

Learning ICT Supported Nursing for Self-Management of Patients (DigiNurse)

  • Project type: Erasmus+ for Higher Education, Strategic Partnership
  • Coordinator: Tampere University of Applied Sciences
  • Project period: September 2017–December 2020
  • Partner countries: Slovenia, Belgium and Portugal
  • Funding: EUR 330,657

Author: Elina Jäntti