Canadian Journal of Nursing Informatics

Exploring ICT competencies in a Bologna Masters level nursing program

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by Peter Kokol

University of Maribor, Faculty of Health Sciences

Maribor Slovenia


Information communication technology (ICT) continues to rapidly develop and is incorporated in practically all health care professional and research fields including nursing. It is importance that practicing nurses and nursing students  acquire  competences to successfully employ ICT in their everyday practice to benefit patients and gain more satisfaction from their work.  In this paper we present a study in which we explored the skills and competencies acquired by Masters level nursing and health care management students in Bologna Masters level  programs.


Information communication technology (ICT) continues to rapidly develop and is incorporated in most health care professional and research fields including nursing.Prominent experts like Virginia Saba, Kathryn Hannah, Maureen Scholes, Elly Plyuter Wenting, Evelyn Hovenga, Marion Ball, and Heimar Marin are some of the pioneers in nursing informatics who have paved the way for this incorporation into nursing.  A key focus of their work has been the development of nursing information systems to improve clinical and management nursing functions (Marin, Rodriques, Delaney,  Nielsen, Yan, 2001) and identify critical competencies that nurses must develop.  During the NI 2009 Post-Congress, Skiba, Blazun, Ehrenberg, Marin and Moen (2009) defined and pointed out some main issues regarding personal health information management systems and preparing nurses to practice in a wired world.

To address these issues, many recommendations were set, including ways to develop knowledge and experiences with informatics in nursing education. It was noted that European nursing schools lack content to introduce ICTs in nursing programs, especially in new Bologna programs which are more focused on clinical practice and less on research, leadership, and ICT skills.

Even though nursing informatics is a specialty recognized by the American Nursing Association in 2001, it has received limited attention in nursing education curricula in Europe and elsewhere. Part of this problem is a lack of congruent ICT and informatics competencies that are acceptable and manageable across nursing education programs and practice areas. Literature search findings collected by Carter-Templeton, Patterson, & Russell (2009) using the terms “informatics competencies” and “nursing informatics competencies” (37 articles captured, six relevant) showed there is a wide variation among published informatics competencies related to content, presentation, and audience and that a general list of competencies that can be utilized by nurses at all levels is needed.  The results of a recent study (Jetté, Tribble, Gagnon, Mathieu & La, 2010) showed that even if nursing students feel competent using informatics in nursing, they still lack important resources for developing relevant ICT competencies for nursing practice.

The results of a recent study by Jetté, Tribble, Gagnon, Mathieu & L (2010) showed that even if nursing students feel competent using informatics in nursing, they still lack important resources for developing ICT competencies. A more specific study by Westra and Delaney (2009) focused on nursing leaders and defined a very detailed list of 92 competencies (24 competencies addressed computer skills, 40 addressed informatics knowledge, and 28 informatics skills). Likewise, the European Tuning project defined 40 generic and subject-specific competences for nursing professionals. One competency is specifically focused on ICT skills, and three others are closely related:

  • Ability to interpret information sources,
  • Ability to perform evidence based practice and
  • Communication using technology.

 Exploring the ICT Competencies of Masters level Nursing students


An exploratory study was conducted in our new harmonized Bologna nursing  program to assess students perceptions of their level of nursing informatics and ICT competences as defined in the European Tuning project. The research study sample included 72 Masters level first year students from two different health care programs: nursing and health care management. Using structured surveys, students were asked to assess their level of competency using  a Likert rating scale that ranged from 1 to 5 (1 meant that  they do not agree at all  and 5 that they fully agree that they have mastered a particular competency). The results were analyzed using frequency plotting and correspondence analyses that also compared study program, type of study and average grade obtained during the program. The results are shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Correspondence analyses for comparison of ICT skills among Master degree students


Figure 1.shows that the results for both management and nursing students are near the centre and clustered close together, contrary to another study where results from part time students are spread out more. This means that the perception of the competencies gained does not differ much between both programs, but more according to type of study, or whether students are in part time or full time study. Competency perceptions are quite regularly grouped together: most of the 5 (fully agree) responses are clustered in the middle along the right side, 4s on the bottom, 2s and 3s in the middle of the bottom, but the 1s are scattered irregularly

The part time students rated their competency levels at a 4 for most statements, meaning that they assessed their ICT competencies quite highly – the same pattern was shown by the nursing students. The management students and full time students tended to cluster around 3, meaning they assessed their competencies at a lower level than the nursing and part time students. It is also interesting to note students with an average grade less than 7.5 rated their competency levels at around 4, meaning that the least academic students perceived they had the best ICT skills.


Our study showed that part time students perceived that their the level of informatics and ICT knowledge was high, but full time students perceived they had only a moderate amount of competency. This could be due to the fact that part time students acquired additional knowledge in their nursing work environment as they responded to needs of  clinical practice. These results appear to confirm that nursing education needs to integrate nursing informatics into all nursing and other health care study programs. This will help to successfully educate students in the ICT competencies and skills needed by contemporary society, and prepare them to use systems within nursing and health care. Educators need to value the full benefits of ICT in health care and how they contribute to high quality nursing practice. This means embracing change and learning how to incorporate ICTs in the classroom and practice area. All in all, we should follow Carl’s Rogers advice: “The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change” and learn how to apply technology and ICTs in conjunction with necessary human skills such as empathy, human touch, and so on to educate well prepared nurses for the present and the future.


Carter-Templeton H, Patterson R, Russell C (2009) An analysis of published nursing informatics competencies. Stud Health Technol Inform. 146:540-5.

European Tuning Project (2009).

Jetté S, Tribble DS, Gagnon, Mathieu JLa. Nursing students’ perceptions of their resources toward the development of competencies in nursing informatics, Available online 1 April 2010.

Marin F. H, Rodriques J. R, Delaney C, Nielsen H. G, Yan J. (2001).  Building standard-based nuring information systems. Pan American Health Organization.

Skiba D, Blažun H, Ehrenberg A, Marin H, Moen A. (2009). Personal Health Information Management Systems and Education: Preparing Nurses to practice in Wired World. Post conference, Nursing Informatics, Helsinki.

Westra BL, Delaney CW (2009).  Informatics Competencies for Nursing and Healthcare Leaders.



Helen Edwards

June Kaminski


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