As a public health nursing and informatics faculty in the School of Nursing, I wanted to expand and update student learning by introducing Geographic Information Systems into the undergraduate curriculum. Through the Office of Information Technology Faculty Fellowship Program I was able to create two worldwide collaborative maps for international public health nursing education. In collaboration with U-Spatial at the University of Minnesota, I developed prototype maps, tested them with my own students, and began to make them available to others. For example, the Age-Friendly Cities map has data points from all over the world following participation of students in the University of Minnesota Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) Interprofessional Healthcare Informatics, taught by colleague Karen Monsen in the summer of 2013.
The two collaborative mapping tools are an innovation in nursing education and public health nursing practice because Geographic Information Science is relatively new to nursing. There is widespread agreement in nursing that where one lives and works is important to health. Increased accessibility to GIS tools on the internet has made the timing right to expose the future public health nursing workforce to the possibilities of using spatial data to inform the care of individuals, families, and communities.
Students have readily used the new mapping tools for assignments. Several groups have started innovating too, by building their own maps and using GIS when communicating results of their community projects to public health nursing staff. The collaborative spaces for mapping community assessments make it possible in the near future to engage international colleagues and their students in sharing and comparing results using a common space and shared language and using a standardized terminology.