Three School of Nursing Alums Create Online Tool for Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Students

November 2013Diana Austin

Last summer, while studying for her national board exam, pediatric nurse practitioner Shawna Sisler had an idea. “I was archiving all my materials from the year, trying to get together a study guide for my boards. It hit me that I should upload all this information to a website because it’s all over my hard drive and I’m frankly never going to find it again.” Two months later,, an online information repository for pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs), was up and running.

The site, which houses links and information on everything from antibiotic basics to assessment and planning notes on conditions like retinoblastoma, is the result of a collaboration between Sisler and two former classmates from UC San Francisco School of Nursing, PNPs Emily Rodda and Sarah Oppenheim, whom Sisler enlisted for their knowledge of the available clinical resources. The three recent graduates spent the month between taking their board exams and beginning new jobs sifting through and organizing the most useful resources they’d collected during their education. “A lot of it was trial and error,” Rodda says of the collection process. She gives the example of searching for hours through respiratory videos on YouTube and other sites to find one that clarified what a certain auscultation sounded like.

Sisler drew on her previous experience in education technology to build the site, and all three curated the resources and contributed to the organization and design. It was an intense experience – in the beginning, they were working 60 hours a week on the site – but being knee-deep in the content was a way of building expertise. “See one, do one, teach one” is a maxim of clinical training, and that’s what creating felt like, says Rodda. “We’d seen it in school, done it in clinicals, and building the site was really a way of teaching it.”

While the three NPs have carefully collected the content, the site’s Terms and Conditions make it clear that the materials are presented “as is” and that’s creators aren’t responsible for the content in third-party sites they link to. And the standard disclaimer – that content isn’t a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to replace clinical decisionmaking – applies.

Just prior to the October 15 launch, Sisler, Oppenheim and Rodda turned their attention to getting the word out about the site. They divided a list of PNP programs across the country, and each wrote a personalized note to a group of program coordinators to let them know about the new site. They didn’t know what to expect, but the response was overwhelmingly positive. They received emails from nursing faculty and students, who shared information about the site on social media and Listservs. By the end of the second day after the launch, had received 1,200 visits, and it continues to attract 600-700 unique viewers per day, with an average of four page views per visitor. “If I had had numbers like these when I was working at Brightstorm [an education technology company], I would have been heralded as amazing,” says Sisler.

While the focus of the current site is pediatric nursing, the creators believe it could be helpful to clinicians in other specialties and disciplines – for example, the medical student who may not be planning to go into pediatrics but will rotate through and need some good background information or quick reference – and they hope that the site’s concept could be picked up and emulated by other nursing specialties and other disciplines.

Sisler and Rodda both began new nurse practitioner jobs around the same time the site launched, and Oppenheim will begin hers in December, but they continue to maintain the site, adding new resources when they find them or when users suggest them via the suggestion form that appears at the bottom of each page. Says Sisler, “It’s a bit like rugby: when one of us reaches our limit, the others pick up the ball and go.” The system works well right now, she says, but roles will continue to evolve as each settles into her professional career.

“Creating the site was a lot of work, but it was a labor of love,” says Sisler. “We view it as our contribution to the amazing education we all got at UCSF.”