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Nurses warned not to use own phones for work

Nurses should avoid the temptation to use their own mobile phones for work purposes, the Royal College of Nursing has warned.

The college also advised nurses to be aware of the risks when using smartphone applications to make clinical decisions, or record and send patient information.

It has published new guidance (see document attached, right) in response to a growing number of members raising issues around the use of mobile devices at this year’s RCN Congress in Harrogate.

The RCN noted that smartphones were useful tools, which allowed nurses to communicate, photograph wounds, make calculations, and access guidelines and information via the internet.

However, it highlighted the results of a 2010 survey of clinicians in which 80% of nurses and midwives that carried mobile phones admitted to using their own phone for work.

The RCN said nursing staff should not “bear the brunt of costs” of work related phone usage. It called on NHS organisations to supply equipment where staff routinely needed to use mobile devices.

Guideline author Alison Wallis, an e-health advisor at the RCN, said: “We are against the regular use of mobile phones for work purposes but we accept there are times when they may have to be used in an emergency, for example.”

She said the growth in nurses having their own mobile phones had led to staff being “tempted” to use them for work.

“There is a concern that pressure would be put on nurses to use their own phone, although we aren’t saying that may be a conscious decision by employers,” she told Nursing Times. “If they need to regularly use their phones the employer should provide them.”

Ms Wallis also warned nurses not to record or transmit patient data with their own mobile devices due to the potential for breaching confidentiality. She added that there was also a safety issue for staff if patients got hold of their personal phone number.

The dramatic rise in mobile applications, commonly known as “apps”, was a key risk highlighted in the RCN guidance. It advised nurses to make sure they could properly evaluate an app’s usefulness before downloading it.

Ms Wallis said: “Nurses are taking the responsibility on themselves using these apps. If they are downloading them and using them, they could be basing clinical decisions on unreliable information.”

She added that she hoped the guidance could be used by nurses to discuss mobile phone usage with their managers and employers.

Readers' comments (41)

  • The medical photography dept should take photo's of wounds and wandering patients.

    Medical information should be sourced from recognised sites which are found on all hospital computers or in the libraries.

    Calculations should be made via a calculator.

    Of course nurses should not be transferring patient info over their phones, that is a breach of confidentiality.

    Common sense all of this, it also needs to be extended to nurses (and non RCN members) not being allowed to use their phones at work for personal use which is becoming a real nuisance.

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  • Well in our Trust the Endoscopy nurses are on an out of hours on call rota and are contacted by the consultant on call and given the details about the patient over their own mobile phones. It would be impossible to operate the on call system without a mobile but it should be phones provided by the Trust. I've been saying for years the nurses should not be using their own phones for this.

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  • for everybody's protection this seems helpful advice and after all if a mobile is needed, why should nurses be expected to pay out of their own pockets for Trust business?

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  • If official info is to be shared via mobiles then of course the employer should pay for the phone, the calls and put in place a security system so that it cannot be abused. That phone should only be used for work purposes and calls be monitored.

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  • I agree with comments on here, however i have just finished a rotation with community mental health teams, and the mobile phones that they are issued are out of date and very old, so in the long term they have to use their own phones. If this system is going to work then trusts should invest some up to date phones that work, speaking with other CPN's from other trusts this appears to be an issue all over the NHS

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  • Anonymous | 31-Aug-2012 11:26 am

    should calls containing patient data be monitored?

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  • Our phones are used to call us in for major incidents (the same system is used for notifying us of bank/overtime shifts). I have downloaded several medical apps (e.g. paeds ED and POPS) which are useful tools. There are also apps that give access to the BNF and NICE guidelines.

    As a matter of interest, has the BMA issued similar guidelines for their members, or is it seen as being a nurse only problem, again?

    As for using a calculator instead of a phone I can't see the difference myself.

    What about patients using their phones to take pictures of us?

    Finally there is no evidence that mobile phones interfere with medical equipment such as monitors or ventilators for example.
    The digital TV transmitter located a few miles from Good Hope hospital in Sutton Coldfield transmits a lot more power than a mobile phone does, as do Radar systems located at airports and air fields.

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  • anon 3.14

    patients are not allowed to take pictures of us without our permission, if they do so then you have every right to ask them to remove the photo, if they make a fuss you call security/IT.

    Regarding ventilators, the problem is that not everyone puts their mobiles onto silent so the noise from the phone can alert staff who think it's from a ventilator/monitor - this is a fact that I have seen happen.

    If you are in a high dependency area where monitors/ventilators are being used why would you spend time on a phone near to that patient anyway. Drug calculations would be done in the treatment room.

    Where I work both medical and nursing staff are asked not to use their phones in clinical areas.

    If a phone is needed for work then they should be supplied by the employer for sole use at work only, not for personal use.

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  • "If a phone is needed for work then they should be supplied by the employer for sole use at work only, not for personal

    Anonymous | 1-Sep-2012 9:39 am

    I totally agree with this and think quite a few commentators have said the same but I wonder how many employers do this and how many are actually forced to use their own phone for reasons of on-call, etc. It seems some general agreement and ruling across the NHS is required.

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  • tell your employer that you don't have a mobile phone then, if you need one for work purposes they will have to buy you one.

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  • bank shifts come to me via my mobile phone, just a text that they send out to everyone. work also have my mobile number to call me if they need me to change shifts, come in for a major incident but I don't regard these things as work related as it was my choice to give them my mobile number to contact me instead of my home number.

    if I needed a phone for work, for example, I worked in the community then I would expect my employer to provide me with a separate phone for work use only and for them to pay the bills. If they said they wouldn't do that then I would say I have no way of keeping in touch with my colleagues and let them take some responsibility.

    at work we have a calculator, why should we use our batteries up. we also access info on the computer system.

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  • if people have to use their own phones for work it should be tax deductible as a work related expense.

    it could be argued that if nurses are responsible enough to be on a professional register they should be expected to behave autonomously and responsibly at all times which includes the use of their phones as well as all their other technology and social media.

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  • The administration of medication to patients is a significant part of a nurse’s role. Nurses frequently experience many interruptions during medication administration, which may lead to increasing errors. The causes of poor medication management are: Distractions and interruptions, Heavy workload, insufficient educational support and lastly Poor competence in calculations. Working as a Clinical Facilitator with newly qualified as well as experienced staff nurses, I feel that nurses need a lot more support with drug calculations. I consulted a friend of mine who is a computer programmer; we developed an application for mobile phones called “Dosage Calc”.

    This application is designed as a ‘second checker’. The idea is that when the nurse is ‘single’ administering medication, she/he can use the application as a means to second check. The idea is that they can use the application to re assure themselves that they have got the correct answer. Among other things, the application covers tablet dosage, volume of liquids and dosage for body weight but also covers IV drop rates for infusions. The beauty of using this application is that it be used when mobile is in ‘flight mode’.

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  • Re: above 'advert' for drug calculation app. Cannot do micrograms per kg calcs and micrograms per kg per min type of calcs. Not accurate. Other drug calc apps available.

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  • Isn't it just easier, and safer, to have a real person being a 'second checker'.

    God forbid that we are relying on a mobile phone app to be a nurse.

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  • So if they (the employers) are supposed to give us up to date mobile phones shall we not use our cars for work and they have to give us a porsche or similar up to date car??
    Here I am living the real world where employers give you old phones that do not allow apps or WWW access and expect you to use your car for which they pay a tiny amount per mile-same old thing!!

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  • Anonymous | 3-Sep-2012 10:38 am

    Good comment. shame there are no tick boxes here to show approval.

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  • all my clinical decision making and correspondence is done on my own iPhone and I find all the apps useful for calculations. With so many interruptions this saves me considerable time and effort and my maths is poor and not reliable.

    Of course I need my phone at work as I work unsocial hours with a lot of extra unpaid overtime and it is the only way to keep up with all of my friends and my personal business which can obviously only be conducted during normal office hours!

    I do let my phone vibrate in my pocket so that it does not ring or play music out loud and disturb anybody. I find it invaluable at the bedside to take notes and photos which I can then transmit to colleagues and, as mentioned before for calculations - drugs, diet, fluid balance, etc. the applications are endless and all the new developments very exciting.

    At the end of a shift when I have finished all my work and am waiting for my replacement I might watch a video, listen to music, do my e-mails or watch a football match.

    No patients have ever complained as I make my usage appear fairly discreet!

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  • Frankly the dwindling numbers of staff and more consumer irate patients I feel safe with my phone on silent in my pocket.

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  • Although I am quite shocked by the above entry. That is not professionalism.

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