YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — If there’s one thing Navy nurses don’t seem to have, it’s spare time.

They work 12-hour shifts and must keep up with the latest medical information for required courses.

Go out on a date? Attend college classes? Forget it, many nurses will attest.

But now, with the help of an online program making its debut at Naval Hospital Yokosuka, nurses can complete required training on a schedule they choose.

The Essentials of Critical Care Orientation program, or ECCO, is a 52-hour Web-based tutorial that can be completed on a pace tailored to the individual.

“If you’re stuck on the night shift, you get some really quiet time between one and four in the morning,” said Ensign Daniel Yawn, a Yokosuka nurse who recently completed the course.

“You can make good use of that time. Even on your off days, you can log on from home. The availability and flexibility of the program is first rate.”

The program covers eight broad “modules,” ranging from cardiovascular to neurological to pulmonary care. Each module begins with an anatomy review, progresses to medical problems in each area and continues to treatments and after-care. At the end, a test is given.

“A passing grade on each test is a 70, but you can take it over again and get a higher score if you want,” said Cmdr. Janet Hughen, head of Medical and Surgical Nursing at Naval Hospital Yokosuka.

“The test changes each time you take it, so it’s not like you’re just memorizing answers.”

Hughen said hospital officials tested the program in November with a yearlong access contract.

At the end of that time, Hughen said, the hospital will evaluate whether to sign up for another year.

So far, she seems pleased.

“I think right now it fits in well with a couple of other online learning courses that we have signed up for,” she said.

Naval Hospital Yokosuka operates several branch clinics at other bases across Japan. Nurses at those facilities also would be able to use the system, Hughen said.

“For a beginning nurse, the job is mostly following what the doctor tells you to do. Once you learn this information, and you go to the next tier, you are also looking at the patient with a critical eye,” Yawn said.

“Instead of just listening to the doctor say ‘we need to do A, B and C’, you can say ‘sure, but maybe we need D and E too.’”

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