Canadian Journal of Nursing Informatics


This article was written on 23 Sep 2013, and is filled under Volume 8 No 3 & 4.

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Holograms in Health Care

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Technology in Education Column

by Dr Sandra Bassendowski

The Technology in Education column is written by one of our CNA Centennial 100 Award Winners, Dr. Sandra Bassendowski, who is a Professor at the University of Saskatchewan. Sandra recognized a need, and offered to write this important feature for the CJNI – this column is focused on how technology can be used in nursing education and by nurses in general. Sandra has been recognized by the Canadian Nurses’ Association, as well as the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association and the University of Saskatchewan for her inspiring, dedicated work in her educational practice.


HologramsHolography is a technique which enables 3-D images to be made for a variety of uses. It involves the combination of a laser, interference, diffraction, light intensity recording, and suitable illumination of the recording. The image changes as the position is changed by the viewer in exactly the same way as if the object were still present, thus making the image appear three-dimensional.  Although it sounds very complex, as members of the public we see holograms in a variety of everyday products. For example, holograms exist on credit cards, drivers’ licenses, passports, decorating items, and gift packaging. Holograms are popular as they are eye-catching and incredibly useful to a large number of businesses. Hologram technology is expensive now, but in the next decade, as with any technology, it will probably become more affordable and more integral to nursing education.

In a hospital outside of London, England, a holographic nurse, known as Jane, welcome visitors and plays a key role in maintaining patient safety by raising the awareness of the importance of good hand hygiene. “Acting as a concierge for the hospital, Hologram Nurse Jane also provides information about facilities and key patient contacts.” It is the first time this type of futuristic approach to infection control has been tried in Great Britain. “The number of visitors using sanitizer placed at the entrance to the hospital increased from 2.1% to 33% when the virtual nurse was installed at the entrance” (Entwistle, 2012).

Nursing deans in the United States are starting to consider the impact of holograms for interactive student exams as well as clinical practice situations. “Certainly we are seeing the use of holograms, which will gain more widespread usage,” says Dr. Michael Bleich, Dean of Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College in St. Louis. “So if you stretch your imagination a little bit about this topic, it is fascinating to think what might emerge with this (Casey, 2013).

Medical students in California are assessing a system called zSpace that uses a large screen, glasses, and pointer — like a ballpoint pen to manipulate 3-D images. The technology allows students to explore the object, examine it from all angles, and zoom in and out. The hologram supports the exploration of a virtual body and can also be used “to organize and manipulate data in multiple dimensions, showing potential connections or anomalies that might be more difficult to represent in a traditional format” (Biron, 2013).

Nursing educators are teaching and practicing in an increasingly technology-enabled environment and will need to continually support students and colleagues with different levels of technical skills and expertise to collaborate around technologies such as holography to support learning outcomes, student assessment, educational tasks, and program challenges. “Nursing education today does not allow for business as usual” (Brown, Kirkpatrick, Greer, Matthias, & Swanson, 2009, ¶1).


Biron, L. (2013, July 11). Medical training goes holographic. DefenseNews. Available:

Brown, S., Kirkpatrick, M., Greer, A., Matthias, A., & Swanson, M. (2009). The use of innovative pedagogies in nursing education: An international perspective. Nursing Education Perspectives, 30(3), 153-158.

Casey, K. (2013, April 2). Nursing exams keep pace with health care tech advances. MarketPlace Health Care. Available:

Entwistle, F. (2012, January 17).  ‘Holographic nurse’ used to promote hand hygiene. NursingTimes. Available:


Purchased from 123rf. Image credit: wavebreakmediamicro / 123RF Stock Photo

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