Introduction: Limitations in providing adequate care for patients in rural areas often result from geographical barriers such as expense and time spent traveling for patient care or educational purposes and the availability of medical experts. Telemedicine is an effective way to close the geographic gap between rural and urban facilities, thereby providing patient care and medical personnel training from a distance via technological systems utilizing interactive video, visual, audio and/or data communication. An added benefit of telemedicine is its ability to open a network of communication among medical professionals to share ideas and second opinions for the improvement of patient care. The paucity of neurosurgeons in the presence of increasing demands for their specialty in rural areas has resulted in neurosurgeons traveling to rural hospitals associated with their primary hospital affiliation. This has intensified the need for trained perioperative nurses at rural hospitals. Training available for perioperative nurses in rural areas is often inefficient and presents numerous challenges. The lack of formalized and standardized education paired with existing nursing shortages, creates a wide range of problems for hospitals, especially in rural communities.
Methods: Our research team designed and implemented a distance training program incorporating telemedicine practices in conjunction with educational material from the Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses (AORN)'s perioperative 101 course.
Results: We compared performance of 22 nurses in a telemedicine preceptor program with that of 13 nurses in an in-person preceptor program across seven hospitals.
We compared data from both groups relevant to core curriculum and demonstration of manual skills. Our results demonstrated no statistical difference in the quality of education (based upon official scores) regardless of instruction modality and irrespective of age, sex, education, and computer competence.
Conclusions: We believe this sets the stage for further telemedicine applications in neurosurgery while meeting a critical need for specialized training in rural hospitals.
Patient Care: Meet the critical need for neurosurgical support in rural hospitals.
Learning Objectives: 1) Increase awareness of telemedicine technologies and programs.
2) Demonstrate the significance of telemedicine in neurosurgery.
3) Discuss the importance and structure of education through telemedicine.