Rhonda D. Squires, PhD, APRN-BC, FNP


Topics in Advanced Practice Nursing eJournal. 2009;9(3) 

In This Article


Clinical experiences do not guarantee clinical competency; however, experiences are a critical element of nurse practitioner (NP) education. Documentation of clinical experience is essential for the evaluation of a student's competency and for the accreditation process. With students in varied clinical sites, continuous monitoring and evaluation of students' clinical progress are a significant challenge for clinical faculty and program directors. Although several electronic models for the documentation of NP students' clinical experiences are available, the selection and successful use of such a system require consideration of numerous variables, such as cost, the ease of use in current curriculum, and student and faculty acceptance of the system.

Electronic Clinical Logs

Electronic clinical logs (ECLs; also known as student clinical encounter systems or clinical experience logs) are computer-based, expanded versions of paper clinical logbooks for monitoring the NP student's clinical experiences with patients. Patient diagnoses and demographics, complexity of encounters, social problems, and levels of student participation in decision-making, coding, and other data can be entered and tracked by the clinical faculty for individual students and student groups. These data facilitate measurement of the educational process and outcomes. Many ECLs have additional curricular support features that are not included in paper clinical logbooks.

Although many NP educational programs have already incorporated ECLs and tracking systems, the efficacy of these systems has been variable because the software programs continue to evolve. Successful use of ECL systems is driven by data accuracy; ease of access for faculty, students, and other users; adequacy of detail; report capability; data entry efficiency; secure data storage; and comfortable use by stakeholders.

Clinical faculty can significantly influence the success or failure of an ECL system, and may also play a role in the school's acquisition of this new technology. The roles of clinical faculty, depending on program resources, can include assessment of student, faculty, and program need; review of the available products; selection of the product; implementation of the system; and suggestions for program improvements.


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