Should hospital staff be allowed to use their phones for personal reasons?


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3 comments

  1. Lynda Tyler

    In my opinion the health Authority should provide devices for hospital business. This legitimizes the staff use of technology and creates an official record of all actions taken. Hospital staff have breaks and can conduct personal business during those times, as it should be for all of us. It’s too easy for the lines to be blurred. My mom died after a routine thyroidectomy because her surgeon was too busy/complacent to come back to the hospital. He violated hospital policy and got the nurse to use her personal cell phone to text him a photo of the incision and made a diagnosis based on that photo. Since they were both using personal cell phones the photos were not under the care, custody and control of the hospital and they are not in my mother’s medical file. The health authority will not take any responsibility on this matter. I know for a fact, the surgeon and some of the nurses continue to operate this way. It’s unprofessional and dangerous.

  2. Melissa Jones

    There’s a lack of recognition of human needs at work. Physicians don’t have breaks built into their day the way that nurses do. They- and residents in particular- sacrifice a huge amount, working long hours, working weekends and holidays, and working shifts that run over 24 hours long to take care of patients. Taking away their cellphones or prohibiting them from texting people about personal things is unkind. Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals have lives and human needs, too- they have families and friends they don’t see for sometimes days or weeks or months. The few non-work related messages they get are often their only thread to their sanity and rarely distract them from tasks at hand. Physicians in particular don’t have built in breaks the way that nurses do. And I have never seen one of them checking their social media while at a patient’s bedside, so to characterize this as a common problem is ignorant at best and simply a lie at worst. You can’t see this happen a few times and assume that everyone does it. Every other job allows for people to use their cellphones- this shouldn’t be any different. Patients need to recognize this as well.

    Perhaps the best thing to do, if this is truly a concern, is to recognize the natural aspects of things like attention spans and account for them. Give people breaks every 15 minutes (our attentions wander otherwise, even if there’s no phone at hand, so chances are we’ll miss something anyway). Give physicians breaks, too, and don’t make them work such long hours. Recognize that having a nurse stare at a vitals screen for whatever part of their 12 hours a day when they aren’t cleaning the patient/administering medicaitons/getting medications drawn up (the latter is another time that they may be away and not paying attention, by the way, yet we don’t really talk about that) isn’t realistic. Because the reality is, even in a setting like the ICU, boredom sets in when you’re working a shift and not much is actually happening. And boredom is really bad for maintaining attention. Most patients aren’t actually crashing- they’re quite stable. Alarms are set up for a reason. And so maybe that Facebook page that’s open is actually better for the patient and not worse- but no one has the true data to show this one way or another, and anecdotes of how people who may not know what they’re talking about feel aren’t something we should look at to define policy.

    Oh, and if you want to talk about distracting items, consider removing all pagers and work phones. These go off all the time at the patient’s bedside, and often necessitate that clinicians look at them to turn off the alarm. If distractions from work are such a concern, these are probably the single worst culprit, not the 2 text messages you got from your mom/spouse/kid wishing you a good day or asking you to pick up some milk on the way home. Especially given that most of the time the messages these work devices convey aren’t in any way urgent (patient has a potassium of 3.4! the blood pressure is normal! can I get a laxative order please? patient can’t sleep!). These are much, much worse than any personal device- any resident can tell you that.

  3. CL

    Smartphones themselves are not the root cause of the issue, as distraction while on the job has been present in many ways before computers became so sophisticated that they fit in the palm of our hand. (distraction isn’t even a technological issue, as it has been witnessed long before computers became common place in the health care environment, such as paying more attention to the daily crossword in the newspaper while at the patient bedside, or having a personal conversation on the unit phone during scheduled work hours). The question is how to support our fellow health care providers to balance their responsibilities to their patients with their responsibilities to themselves i.e. self-care in a manner that is not a compromise to patient care or to the health care organization.

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