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Should we be able to use mobile phone on wards?

It may seem an obvious question - of course you shouldn’t allow nurses and students access to their mobile phones while working. This could lead to an irresistible temptation to message your friends or check your social networks.

However, as a dyslexic student, I theoretically have the right to use my mobile phone on the ward to make notes, check details and to use my calculator.

I have to confess that I haven’t used this privilege much, if at all. The reason is simple, I am too afraid of the stigma that surrounds using a phone at work.

On the rare occasion that I have used my phone to check a fact, I was promptly told that using phones was not allowed. When I had explained my situation I was still aware of the other nurses’ gazes.

I’m not sure what the answer is and I honestly have mixed feelings about it.

On the one hand I can fully understand the view of many staff and patients. The sight of a nurse fiddling about on a mobile phone does give an air of unprofessionalism even if the reason why that nurse was on the phone was totally legitimate - to check a fact, to use a calculator, to namecheck a condition or a drug.

Do you think that if we could get rid of some of the stigma attached to using a phone, nursing could become more safe and productive?

A nurses is more likely to have a phone in their pocket than a calculator, so would that mean we would have less drug calculation errors if the nurse could feel comfortable just checking on their phone?

Now that phones are becoming increasingly more sophisticated could it be that they could become an indispensable tool for the modern nurse or just another distraction in an already hectic environment?

I would love to hear what people think.

Readers' comments (26)

  • Anonymous

    I agree that the mobile is now more useful than ever as an instant source of information to aid nursing practice.

    However I am aware that a small minority of nurses spend an inproportionate amount of time on facebook and resonding to personal text messages - time which could be used accessing educational material or providng quality hands on care.

    The question would therefore be - how do we regulate the use of personal devices in the same way that Trust IT departments regulate access to the internet and prohibit the use of specific web pages - and is this necessary?

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  • Anonymous

    Eeh! what a difficult question. Apps would be great to replace these little books full of facts such as path lab results, procedures, drug manual, etc. and certainly be a very useful tool leading to much faster access of information. I believe many of these are available and used by doctors already. Smart phones are after all small handheld computers. One would like to think that professionals are responsible enough not to put them for personal use on the wards - but sadly they are open to abuse and requiring rules to prevent this.

    I can understand negative attitudes towards them as well as in any interpersonal interaction people like to visibly see that they are the focus of the other person's attention, and although the phone may be used for their benefit we need to change perceptions to get used to this. I think it is the same in any service, and especially in a doctor's surgery where patients have the impression and often complain, that the doctor just looks at his screen and does not appear to have much interest in his patients. Some are more skilled in their patient contact/computer use than others and we somehow we need to perfect these skills so that patients and colleagues understand that we are using our mobiles in their best interest and that of others.

    Mobile phones seem to be a useful tool on the wards which can be helped to enhance care and rapid communications and are probably here to stay so we need somehow to find ways of using them without offending, upsetting or irritating others or, in Adam's case being singled out and stigmatised for their use.

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  • Anonymous

    Prior to starting my training, I worked as a bank HCA, I kept my phone in my pocket, because of theft. It was always on silent and I never checked it except during breaks.
    A lot of staff who did leave their phones etc in their handbags actually had them stolen. If policies change, then the workplace should provide adequete facilities ie lockers to keep belongings safe and secure.
    I have also witnessed other Healthcare Professionals using thier phones on the wards, sometimes in front of patients too.

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  • Surely, the way round this is to issue a tablet or other portable device to staff for use on the ward. It would then access the internet via the Trust's network and be subject to the Trust's security policy.

    As this would be a shared portable device, it is more likely to be used only when required and not hogged by one person for social networking etc.

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  • Anonymous

    Trish | 9-Jul-2012 12:43 pm

    good idea but knowing Britain and the NHS it would probably get nicked.

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  • Anonymous

    Use something else...simples !

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  • Anonymous

    Wards have computers which you can access for information on drugs or medical conditions, there is also the BNF for drug information.
    Maybe it is better to double check a drug calculation with another nurse rather than rely on a calculator. If you do need to check a dose on a calculator then this can be done in the treatment room where patients can't see what you are doing.

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  • Aaron

    As others here have said; it can get stolen, it can look unprofessional.

    In the clinical room, out of view of patients, I have been known to check the BNF or medical calculator apps to arm myself with knowledge to walk back onto the ward armed with a greater capacity to serve my patients.

    But I'd never get it out on the ward itself, there are too many pitfalls.

    I keep it on silent in my pocket vibrating every 30minutes to make sure I don't miss a admin of medication round haha!

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  • Of course we should be able to utilize our phones in a positive way to augment & enhance practice & performance at work. Many of my medical consultants use their smartphones as an essential integral part of the way they work, yet nursing seems to be reluctant to embrace this.

    Unfortunately, perceptions are that nurses using computers/tablets/phones are not 'working'.
    It is time that nursing addressed proper and professional use of mobile phones and the like in the workplace and dispelled the stigma.

    Nurse Leaders need to advocate the use of these resources in a professional capacity in the same way one would use traditional methods. By trusting employees and professionals to do the right thing, the majority will and patients will benefit. There will always be a small minority that abuse the trust so robust policy & disciplinary action needs to be in place for those who breach/abuse.

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  • Anonymous

    Although they can be helpful to look things up and use as calculators. Most area's where drugs areas where drugs are calculated or stored have calculators around and most wards have computers which staff and students have access to so they can used the computers to look up things that they need to also the BNF is always on wards and can be used to look up medication. There is always the option of writing it down and researching when you have the chance. The NMC say Nursing is life long learning and therefore comitment should be made to research in your spare time. However when the facilities are not made accessable to staff and students then I feel it is unreasonable to tell diciplin staff for using mobile phones unless there is proof they were using it for non work related tasks such as messaging.

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