Office of Medical Education, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, MC 9065, Dallas TX 75235-9006-9065
Edward P. Armstrong
College of Pharmacy, University of Arizona, Tucson AZ 85721
The purpose of this study was to determine first-year doctor of pharmacy students’ computer backgrounds and attitudes. Fifty students completed a survey that assessed their computer experience, types of software used, and attitudes about computers. The majority of students (70 percent) had used a computer at least once a month in the previous year. Most (54 percent) had home computers; however, 40 percent said they relied on a school-based computer laboratory. Software use ranged from a high of 80 percent (word-processing) to a low of eight percent (statistical package). About half (46 percent) said they could use a spreadsheet. Regardless of software they used, students categorized themselves as novice users. Most indicated positive attitudes about computers, but 22 percent said they were apprehensive about learning to use computers. Students viewed computers as important parts of their professional education, but appeared to want courses that included both computer and human components. These findings suggest that faculty should consider differences in students’ attitudes about and experiences with computers when planning computer-based course assignments and developing computer-based instructional innovations.
Pharmacists now use computers to perform many critical patient care tasks(1-2). For example, they rapidly access patient and medication data(3), perform critical non-distributive activities(4), and document their actions (1,5). The likelihood that pharmaceutical computer applications will expand in the future(6) has been reflected in curricular guidelines that suggest Doctor of Pharmacy graduates “apply computer skills and technological advances to practice”(7). Several factors have increased pharmacy students’ use of computers. Pharmacy faculty predicted how computers could be used in pharmacy practice and helped students acquire computer skills(8), assessed students' confidence using computers(9), developed computer software to enhance student learning(10,11), and integrated computers into courses and curricula(12,13). Pharmacy schools also recognized that their students needed computer skills and made computers accessible to students(14). Additionally, curricular standards emphasized that program graduates must be able to use computers in their future practice(7). Finally, an increased demand for certain types of professional services stimulated computer use in various types of pharmacy settings(1,2). Other health professions also recognized that computers could play key roles in education and practice. In its section on medical information science skills, the 1984 Physicians for the Twenty-First Century: The GPEP Report(15) recommended that medical students possess specific computer skills. More recently, the ACME-TRI Report(16) exceeded earlier recommendations and emphasized that medical schools should develop the computer skills of students and faculty and suggested that institutions support integration of computers into instruction. That support is
evident in the widespread availability of computers in medical schools(17) and the plans of some seventy-three medical schools to include computer technology in their curricula(18). Previous survey findings of learners’ computer experiences and attitudes can be expressed in one word: diversity. Most studies found that the majority of learners had used computers: pharmacy students: 87.2 percent(19); first and second-year medical students: 87 percent(20); and medical residents: 91 percent(21). Surveys of pharmacy students found that they were moderately confident about using personal computers(9), most (92.5 percent) did not own...