Pre-registration nursing students' perceptions of their baseline digital literacy and what it means for education: A prospective COHORT survey study

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Background: To build complex digital skills and capability required by digitally-driven work environments, we must first understand nursing students' baseline digital literacy if educators are to develop a fit for purpose curriculum underpinned by digital health technologies. Objective: To determine first-year pre-registration nursing students' perceived baseline digital literacy before their first clinical placement. Design: Prospective cohort study. Settings: Two universities in Australia in 2020. Participants: Students enrolled in pre-registration nursing programs at Bachelor's and Master's level. Methods: Participants (N = 205) completed an online 27-item survey composed of a Likert-type scale, forced-choice items, and open-ended questions. Data were analyzed with descriptive statistics. Results: Participants engaged with digital technology early in life, with 49.75% students using some form of digital technology before ten years of age. Students reported the highest daily use of technology to search the internet for information (92%), online social networking (68.3%) and watching videos (67%). Most students expressed the least confidence in identifying different types of portable storage devices (24.1% Master's students; 41.7% Bachelor's students), describing the advantages of a digital camera (39.3% Master's students; 48.3% Bachelor's students), and totaling numbers in spreadsheets (22.8% Masters students; 48.3% Bachelor's students). No statistical differences were observed between the two universities or the two cohorts in terms of perceived confidence in using technology and software applications to support their learning. Interestingly, 24.7% of participants expressed high confidence in using electronic medical records without prior training, which may reflect positive attitude towards engaging with unknown digital technologies. Conclusions: Nursing students are frequent internet and social media users. However, despite positive attitudes to digital technology and widespread presence of digital technology in students' lives, deficits in students' confidence in using digital technology and software required for learning persist. Targeted digital literacy education interventions are needed as part of foundational nursing studies to improve nursing students' baseline digital literacy before commencing clinical placement. These should be scaffolded across the program to ensure an effective transition to nursing practice in evolving digitally-driven healthcare environments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105308
Number of pages8
JournalNurse Education Today
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


  • Curriculum
  • Digital literacy
  • Nursing students
  • Pre-registration
  • Survey
  • Workforce development

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