The registered nurse's experience of online professional development : an action research study : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Nursing at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand

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Massey University
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This action research project enabled nine registered nurses (RNs), with varying computer skills, ages and clinical specialties, to explore the reality of designing online learning activities for professional development. The aim of this research was to establish which educational strategies would assist a multi-generational, digitally-differentiated nursing workforce to flourish in an online environment for their professional development. Through a process of six action research spirals, the research participants examined the potential benefits of, and barriers to, transitioning to an online environment for continuing professional development. E-learning is becoming increasingly prevalent as an option for maintaining competence in a clinical environment. With the latest developments in web-based technology there is the potential to capitalise on both andragogical and heutagogical learning. Benefits and barriers to online professional development are explored, with online learning activities developed for each of the three clinical areas of surgical ward, operating rooms (OR) and post-anaesthesia recovery unit (PACU). Suggestions for enhancing success of transitioning to web-based learning for clinical settings are discussed. At any point in time, the current body of clinical knowledge is rapidly changing so that content learnt will, within five to ten years, be revised. In addition, maintaining professional competence is now a requirement of professional bodies. Therefore, a focus on life-long learning and the development of skills to enable access to relevant contemporary information is essential. If an organisation is going to offer online professional development, they must be deliberate in their planning, implementation and ongoing support in order to provide learner driven (heutagogical) content that capitalises on the full extent of Web 2.0 capabilities. Rather than imposing online learning for PD, this action research project increased the participants’ familiarity with the online environment, enabling them to engage with the development of learning activities. The use of web 2.0 capability in this action research project enabled participants and the researcher, involved as a learning designer, to collaboratively construct learning activities specific to each of the clinical contexts. As a result recommendations are made for learner driven PD activities that benefit the RN, the organisation and most significantly, have the potential to positively influence patient care.
Professional development, Nursing career development, Online professional development, Online learning, Web 2.0, Registered nurses