Aim: This paper is a report of an integrative review of research investigating computer assisted learning for clinical skills education in nursing, the ways in which it has been studied and the general findings.
Background: Clinical skills are an essential aspect of nursing practice and there is international debate about the most effective ways in which these can be taught. Computer assisted learning has been used as an alternative to conventional teaching methods, and robust research to evaluate its effectiveness is essential.
Data sources: The CINAHL, Medline, BNI, PsycInfo and ERIC electronic databases were searched for the period 1997-2006 for research-based papers published in English. Electronic citation tracking and hand searching of reference lists and relevant journals was also undertaken.
Findings: Twelve studies met the inclusion criteria. An integrative review was conducted and each paper was explored in relation to: design, aims, sample, outcome measures and findings. Many of the study samples were small and there were weaknesses in designs. There is limited empirical evidence addressing the use of computer assisted learning for clinical skills education in nursing. Computer assisted learning has been used to teach a limited range of clinical skills in a variety of settings.
Conclusion: The paucity of evaluative studies indicates the need for more rigorous research to investigate the effect of computer assisted learning for this purpose. Areas that need to be addressed in future studies include: sample size, range of skills, longitudinal follow-up and control of confounding variables.