Bringing the web to work

Image: Jen Bennett for
New Year’s Eve: Silence engulfed our little nurse’s station–there wasn’t a patient on our floor. Usually when we are all “open,” really entertaining conversation ensues. We nurses are natural-born story swappers and out comes the personality when we have a (very infrequent) break.
But something was amiss. No one was speaking. Heck, no one was even eating all the treats laid out to celebrate at midnight. Instead, everyone’s head was bent intently over desks and little clicking noises could be heard. Glossy new cell phones, smart readers, and hand-held tablets were the gift-epidemic of this holiday season, and we nurses were obviously not immune. Texting, web browsing and e-reading put us on mute.

And though we had no patients competing for our time that night, there is a new trend on the floor. In labor and delivery, we remind ourselves to nurse the patient, not the monitor–which is a challenge in itself. And now there is even more competition for our attention: the media web.

Because I carry a smart phone in my own scrub pocket, I have access to everyone and everything on the net at all times. And I admit to it being a temptation not just during down time. Then there is the noticeable spike online of nurses browsing the net and social networking sites. My coworkers are often posting, emailing and texting when I know them to be at work.

Cementing my thoughts about media this week was the news story of 4 girls recently kicked out of a nursing program for posting pictures from a hospital during a clinical rotation. They didn’t quite violate HIPAA but what they did was professionally questionable.

And even more disturbing was the rant by a collegue of mine on a popular social-net site about a patient–including specifics that could in fact lead to a HIPAA violation.

Right now the benefits of my smart phone outweigh the temptation: I have access to my family in case of emergency, I use my drug guide on a regular basis, and yes, when I am open and without a patient I can read a little Jane Austen. Yet I am concerned that portable electronics on the hospital floor can lead to some dangerous practices–from HIPAA violations to patient neglect. I don’t ever want a text message to compete with the call light.

For me this means using discernment when using my phone–remembering that my private life and my professional life are merging online and I must protect not only myself and my job but also the confidentiality of my patients.

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