Eye-tracking technology may improve nursing education, reduce errors

Training nurses with eye-tracking technology — used to test and train airline pilots — may lead to a reduction in subjective evaluation, provide more consistent assessments of nursing ability and ultimately improve patient safety, according to a new study published in the journal Clinical Simulation in Nursing.

Eye-tracking glasses use sensor technology and an imbedded video camera to track the movements of a person's pupil and pupil dilation to determine where a subject is focusing their attention.

For the study, both nursing students and veteran nurses participated in a heart failure simulation scenario while having their eyes tracked. The scenario was designed to elicit seven nursing responses from study participants such as placing a pulse oximeter on a finger, listening to lung sounds and applying an oxygen delivery device. The exercise was then followed by a heart failure knowledge test.

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While results from the knowledge test were comparable across both groups, veteran nurses were able to complete four of seven nursing tasks while the students were only able to complete one. Significant differences were identified in the time required to complete five of the seven tasks between the groups. Eye-tracking results indicated that the novice students spent a significant amount of time focusing on impertinent data while the veteran nurses were better able to discern essential information.

"Embracing new technology adds to the tool box educators have to ensure safe practitioners," said Mary Ann Shinnick, PhD, RN, lead researcher and assistant professor at the UCLA School of Nursing. "In addition, eye tracking can add to the education of novice nurses as the recordings can be shared with students so they can learn which areas in a situation are important to focus on and which are not."

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