1. Perry, William MA, RN

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The Internet has brought the spirit of global communication and collaboration to nurses and other healthcare professionals in ways never before thought possible. These resources are offered to expand your opportunities for discussion, reference, education, and research.


While most people have used Google as a search engine, have you investigated any of the collaboration tools Google has created? Here is one to use now and two to watch for when they become readily available.


Google Docs ( is a suite of "office" tools consisting of a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation application, all of which are compatible with Microsoft Office 2003 and, to a great extent, Office 2007 files. The files created by Google docs can be shared online with selected individuals as well as collaboratively edited online. Ten people can edit a word processing document at the same time, up to 50 people can edit a spreadsheet, and 10 can edit a presentation. Two hundred people can view the document, spreadsheet, or presentation simultaneously. When displaying a presentation file, you can also have a real-time chat window open to gather comments or questions from your viewers/collaborators.


By storing your documents in your personal space on the Google servers, you can make them available to anyone, anywhere, anytime. All they need is an Internet connection. It is an efficient tool for members of a class project, members of a working group writing policies or procedures, or simply yourself. You are free from the need to carry the files on a flash drive to share with those with a need to have access to the documents. It is important to note that even though they are stored in "the cloud," only you can authorize who can see and or edit the documents.


Google Voice ( is a tool that is just opening up to the public. You can request an invitation from the Web site. It is a service that gives you a phone number that can be used as a personal communication hub. Instead of your personal phone number, give your Google Voice number to students, colleagues, or contacts. You then control how the calls are managed: whether they are forwarded to your cell phone, home phone, or voicemail. Voicemails can be transcribed and sent to your e-mail. You can block callers and even route calls to specific numbers based on the caller's phone number. There are a detailed explanation and review of features at Here is a short list of features as listed in that posting:


* Transcribed voicemails: Whenever somebody leaves a voicemail, GV will transcribe the message as best it can (this only works for English right now). These transcripts are then forwarded to your e-mail account and you can also opt to receive an SMS notification.


* Listening in to voicemails: Whenever you receive a call and decide to let it go to voicemail, you can also choose to listen in and even pick up the call if it turns out to be an important message. This feels just like the old days when answering machines with tapes were still a novelty.


* Call screening: One neat option in GV is the ability to screen calls. If you activate this feature, callers will be prompted to leave their name once they call, and once you pick up the phone, GV will play the name back and you can choose if you want the call to go to voicemail or if you want to actually speak to this person. You can opt to let all unknown callers who are not in your Google address book go through this procedure or just those calls from callers who have blocked their caller ID.


* Recording calls: At any time during a call, you can press 4 and the call will be recorded. This works only for calls you receive on your phone for now and does not work for outgoing calls.


* Conference calls: Just ask participants to call your GV number, and once more callers call in, you can just conference them in-this works for up to four callers.


* Switching phones: If you want to switch phones during a call (say you took a call on your home phone and decide you want to take a walk and continue the call on your cell), just press * and all the other phones will ring.


* SMS: You can send and receive text messages from your GV account.



Newly on the scene is Google Wave. The Google Wave site ( describes it as: "Google Wave is an online tool for real-time communication and collaboration. A wave can be both a conversation and a document where people can discuss and work together using richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more." While the application is available only by invitation right now, you can read about it on the Google Wave site. You can watch a 2-minute preview at to have a thumbnail sketch of its capabilities.


All these tools (which are free, by the way) begin with a Google mail, or Gmail account. Don't have one? You can create an account at


William Perry, MA, RN