1. Seaver, Michael RN, EMT-P

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As a travel nurse, you have many challenges to face as you move into each new work environment. Key information you need to keep track of can be as simple as facility phone numbers or as complex as current drug information, including indications, interactions, and dosage charts. And yet, whatever the challenge, there's a simple solution: personal digital assistants (PDAs).

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Many different PDAs are on the market, and so are many good resources to help you choose the best one for you. Visit PDA Cortex ( for an overview.


Regardless of what type of PDA you choose, you'll find standard tools common to all of them. The basic part of all PDAs is the Personal Information Manager (PIM)-the address book, calendar, to-do list, and note pad functions. Many traveling nurses find the PIM indispensable in keeping their lives organized. For example:


[black right pointing small triangle] They use the address book to record permanent personal information, such as relatives' and friends' addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, birthdays, and so forth; temporary numbers, such as key phone numbers (lab, radiology, pharmacy) at each facility; and work contacts-their agency's 24-hour phone number, and numbers for their current facility and unit.


[black right pointing small triangle] They use the calendar to record their assignments and work shifts; they also use it to set alarms as reminders for important tasks.


[black right pointing small triangle] They use the to-do list as they start a new assignment to make sure they're prepared; they also use it for personal things, such as shopping lists.


[black right pointing small triangle] They use the notepad function to record such things as special codes at each assignment (code blue, fire, severe weather warning, missing child, disaster, and so on) and the responses needed; they also use it to jot reminders to themselves.



The features above come with all PDAs, but the real power of PDAs (especially for traveling nurses) lies in their portability and in the immediate access they give you to a vast amount of content you can add to them. For example, you can download drug guides such as the Ultimate Drug Guide (, Lexi-Comp's drug handbooks (, the Nursing2004 Drug Handbook for PDA (, or ePocrates ( Some drug programs include a subscription feature that lets you update your data regularly by synchronizing your PDA to a host computer that's connected to the Internet. (That sounds impressive, but just means setting the PDA in its cradle, which you attach to the computer and follow directions about synchronizing the information between them.)


Many nurses also find references such as Griffith's 5-Minute Clinical Consult 2004 for PDA, Harrison's Manual of Medicine, the Washington Manual of Medical Therapeutics, or other diagnosis and treatment guides extremely useful. You'll find a lot of products available for PDAs; some even combine drug and medical reference materials, such as the PEPID RN Suite ( or the ePocrates Clinical Suite ( An incredible assortment of other programs you might find useful include medical calculator programs, specialty guidebooks, databases of lab values and vital signs, document readers (for text, spreadsheets, databases, and so on), and dictionary applications-including the English & Spanish Medical Words & Phrases for PDA ( In addition, you can download information from various Internet news and resource centers to your PDA to customize it to suit your style. Visit PDA Cortex for an overview of the programs specially designed for nurses.


When making the decision about whether you need a PDA, consider not just the convenience it offers you but also how it can improve patient care. For example, immediate access to up-to-date drug references and clinical information can help you avoid medication or procedural errors. Nurses who use PDAs report that they're real time savers in an environment where time always is at a premium. By having critical and current resources at your fingertips-without having to search through shelves, across desks, or around an unfamiliar unit-you'll have more time to spend at the bedside with your patients.


Michael Seaver is a per diem nurse and president of EMSCON, Ltd., in Merrillville, Ind.