GPC Health Science Students Receive iPads, iPod Touches

09/03/2010
Contact: Rebeca Rakoczy
Phone: 678-891-2691
Fax: 678-891-2966
Author: Rebecca Rakoczy

For Immediate Release

Massive drug reference guides and medical textbooks will be shelved this fall for Georgia Perimeter College dental hygiene and nursing students. Instead, first-year students—and their instructors—will be handed 64GB iPod Touches, while second year students will receive 64GB iPads.

The students are participating in a pilot program that loans them the mobile devices for a year. Financed through a grant from the college’s student technology fund, the devices are loaded with special health science applications, and are able to download classroom lectures, videos and podcasts from an iTunes account.

iPads and iPod Touches are currently just being introduced as incentives to undergraduates at top universities across the nation. Physicians and dentists are also beginning to adopt them for their practices, said Joanne Weir, GPC dental hygiene instructor. “But we believe this is the first time a dental hygiene program has used them for its students,” she said.

For GPC dental hygiene students, there is an immediate benefit for having a drug reference “apps” at their fingertips. They allow students quick information results that used to take hours, said Risa Handman, GPC dental hygiene instructor.

“Patients who come to the college’s low-cost clinic at Dunwoody often suffer from numerous ailments, including hypertension, heart disease and diabetes; the drugs can cause side effects that often manifest themselves in swelling gums or dry mouth,” Handman said. Dental hygiene students take a medical history of their patients, looking for the oral implications of the drugs they take, and research the drugs and their side effects, she said.

Last spring, GPC dental hygiene student Katie Thompson spent hours tracking down the prescription drugs that were causing one client’s severe gum swelling and bleeding; she found that the drugs her client was taking for congestive heart failure and diabetes were to blame.

“Before, students like Katie had to do research for hours to find out about counter indicative drugs,” Handman said. “Now they just have to go to the app, and type in the drug name the patient is taking, and a list of (counter indicative) drugs appears.”

The devices also have an app for natural products, such as herbal remedies, that may create problems when taken with other drugs, she added.

The idea for the original health sciences grant emerged from two self-described “techno geeks”: GPC nursing instructors Sue Bucholz and Wakita Bradford. “We’ve been doing video to capture classroom lectures and converting them to podcast instruction for a while,” says Bradford.

“We’re always looking for ways to improve how we teach our students.” Bucholz adds, “Many nurses in hospitals are already using handheld mobile devices; this helps keep our students up-to-date as they move into their careers as nurses.”

Last year, the two nursing instructors piloted a smaller program with 10 iPod Touches after receiving a $3,000 technology grant from Duke University. This year’s grant is much larger and includes the dental hygiene program; it is funded by the college’s student technology fee, says Tracy Adkins, assistant director of the Office of Instructional Technology.

All students who participate in the voluntary pilot will also be required to participate in the college’s Office of Institutional Research study, which will track student success in the classroom and their use of the devices.

“The information will be essential in determining how future health science students will use mobile devices,” said Adkins.

“We hope that the use of the mobile devices will put our GPC health science students on the cutting edge of their professions when they graduate,” said Dr. Diane White, Dean of GPC’s health sciences program.

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Georgia Perimeter College, the third largest institution of the University System of Georgia, serves more than 25,000 students through four campuses and several sites in metro Atlanta. For additional information, visit www.gpc.edu.