1. Section Editor(s): Chinn, Peggy L. PhD, RN, FAAN
  2. Editor

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Technology has always fascinated me. When I was a child, long before computers, I was mostly disinterested in the toy section of our local "five and dime," preferring instead to dig through the hardware and kitchen gadget sections, and then later the growing array of desk/office-related gadgets. By the time I was in high school, I saved enough money to purchase my own typewriter, then my own sewing machine to take along to college!


When personal computers first appeared, I was elated! This happened not long after I founded this journal, and almost overnight I realized the amazing potential of merging individual author and reviewer information with template letters that I had been painstakingly typing by hand, using tons of carbon paper to retain a record of my correspondence. So it was not long until a dedicated word processor appeared on my desk, alongside my beloved IBM Selectric, which remained in place for several years despite its growing irrelevance to the actual tasks at hand.


Despite this aptitude that drives me to explore any new gadget, a driving principle underlying my pursuit of a particular tool, machine, or gadget, is the extent to which the device is useful and appropriate to the situation. Sometimes my judgment about the usefulness of the item is overly optimistic, and before long the device finds itself sitting unused or passed along to someone else who can use it. Occasionally a device (hardware or software) is overly complex for the application for which it is intended, or it is not sufficiently intuitive to be useful.


For my personal choices, what defines technology of any type as "appropriate" are the factors of intuitive access to its functions, efficient performance, and practical/aesthetic appeal. For example, consider the matter of a clock:


* Intuitive access: I have no problem reading an instruction manual for any device at the outset, but if I have to refer to the manual every time I need to change a setting on the clock, the clock is on its way to a new home!


* Efficient performance: An ideal clock keeps accurate time, and in addition is now one that automatically changes the time zone or adjusts for daylight saving time.


* Practical/aesthetic appeal: I need to be able to tell the time on most clocks without my glasses, and in the dark. But beyond this, a clock (even one integrated into another device) becomes a visible and important part of my visual, and sometimes auditory space.


Of course, there is a wide range of diversity in each person's perception of these factors in relation to any tool or device, but today's reality is that we are all called upon to learn and use a wide range of technologies. Each person can make individual decisions about any device they might add to their personal space. However, many technological devices are part of a collective space, and assume importance as part of a culture. They become part of our collective environment and as such influence the health and well-being of everyone who shares the collective space. To address the range of individual preferences and challenges and yet work within the scope of available technologies, Leslie Nicoll and I recently published a book that addresses the various technologies related to writing and publishing and emphasizes the individual challenges inherent in adopting and adapting to these tools.1


All of us who are concerned with the development of the discipline of nursing have a responsibility to participate in the evolution of our discipline's technology, and in the development of technologies that are used in the lives of those we serve. My personal criteria might serve as a starting point for examining the appropriateness of technologies that we acquire for our collective use. But there are many other factors to consider, several of which are addressed in the articles in this issue that focus on the topic of "Technologies, Nursing and Health."


A technology should not be used simply because it is there, or because someone is making a pitch advocating its use (often motivated by personal gain). I believe that if we carefully examine, together, the appropriateness of each new technology, and if we as nurses actively pursue the development of appropriate technologies, we stand to make significant contributions to the ongoing development of our discipline, and to the health and well-being of our communities.


-Peggy L. Chinn, PhD, RN, FAAN






1. Nicoll L, Chinn PL. Writing in the Digital Age: Savvy Publishing for Healthcare Professionals. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins; 2015. [Context Link]