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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Amy Bozeman

Amy is many things: a blogger, a nurse, a wife, a mom, a childbirth educator. She started her journey towards a career in nursing when she got pregnant with her first child. After nursing school and studying "like she has never studied before" she entered the nursing profession eager to get her feet wet. The first years provided her with much exposure to sadness, joy and other complex human emotions. She feels that blogging is a wonderful outlet and a way for nurse bloggers to further build their community. Traditionally, midwives have handed down their skill set from midwife to apprentice midwife. She believes nurses have this same opportunity: to pass from nurse to new nurse the rich traditions of this profession.

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2 Responses to Bringing the web to work

  1. Patrick

    I agree with you about there being temptations to use social networks when you could be doing other things. However, I’ve grown tired of management questioning my intentions when my iPhone is in hand. Don’t they know we can also access apps, etc that make our jobs easier and safer? They certainly don’t mind if the physicians use their’s. I’ve seen them take personal phone calls at the desk yet no one seems to care. God help me if I were to do that. I’m calling for equal rights for nurses. =)

  2. Stephanie

    I agree with the temptations, but I know that there are also benefits! The computers in the patient rooms do not have a calculator function, so a cell phone comes in extremely handy! I also know of a fellow nurse on my unit who uses her I-Phone alarm to remind her of specific care items – blood sugar checks or med administration – for her patients. How is this NOT helpful? After all, most of us have to carry a phone for the hospital during our shift so the secretaries and physicians can reach us, then we just have TWO phones.