Tracking nurses


Image: pzAxe | Veer

What if your employer insisted on radio frequency identification tags (RFID tags) for all nurses? Would you object to wearing the location-tracking technology?

RFID is an up-and-coming technology in healthcare. So far, healthcare organizations have had the most luck using it to track equipment. RFID-tagged IV pumps, for instance, are essentially self-tracking. Because the technology allows authorized users to track the pumps’ whereabouts at any point in time, nurses who need an IV pump no longer have to spend time searching from room to room or floor to floor for an available pump. RFID technology has also been used to fulfill some more mundane responsibilities, such as tracking the temperature in medication refrigerators.  Before, nurses used to waste precious minutes every day observing and recording the temps; an RFID tag can do it automatically.

RFID technology is also being used to enhance patient safety. RFID-based medication administration systems are easier to use than older, barc0de-based systems. And RFID tags can help staff keep track of patients prone to wandering.

But when it comes to using RFID technology to track an organization’s most valuable asset — its employees — the reaction is mixed. In a recent editorial, Frank Pasquale, JD, a Schering-Plough professor of healthcare regulation and enforcement at Seton Hall University, wrote that many nurses find the idea of such constant tracking oppressive.  “Inserting a watchful electronic eye to monitor what is already an extremely stressful job may create many unintended consequences, or deter people from going into nursing all together,” said Pasquale. On the other hand, he says, “the nurse-cam may be seen as a way to protect vulnerable patients (and perhaps increase the accuracy of evidence of malpractice cases).”

Some nurses seem to welcome the idea of RFID-tracking, in hopes that the data will provide administrators with concrete data regarding nurses’ work days. Others shirk from Big Brother-style surveillance. What do you think? Is RFID tracking of nurses a good idea or a bad one? Why?


Jennifer Fink, RN, BSN
Jennifer is a professional freelance writer with over eight years experience as a hospital nurse. She has clinical experience in adult health, including med-surg, geriatrics and transplant; she also has a particular interest in women’s health and cancer care. Jennifer has written a variety of health and parenting articles for national publications.

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