Why iPhones have no place in the nurse’s unit

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We had RFID chips installed in our badges earlier this month. The chips were the second stage of a three-stage plan in which every single thing in the hospital that’s of any value to anybody will be tagged, either with chips or little sensors, that allow it or him or her to be kept track of in real time.

Last month, it was all of our equipment. IV poles and televisions. Monitors suddenly sprouted roach-size widgets that constantly broadcast an invisible, unhearable signal to the disk-shaped sensors in every room and hallway. Now, this month, somebody somewhere can tell how much time I spend in a room and how often I visit the toilet, unless I lose my badge on a linen cart (which happened…and prompted, I’m sure, some wonderment as to why I was down in the tunnels under the basement, going back and forth and back and forth for four hours).

So when I started hearing rumors that every nurse would soon be outfitted with a smartphone, I took to my bed with a barrel of Moose Munch and whimpered.

I’ll admit to being a little behind the times when it comes to technology. I have a Mac, yes, and I have a semi-smartphone, and I can text and Skype with reasonable proficiency. On the other hand, the idea of carrying a piece of technology that allows me to, say, look up drug interactions and text my medical colleagues at any time fills me with dread.

Let’s face it: Hospital environments are already so overfull of distractions and demands that we’ve had a movement wherein “Quiet Area” signs are put next to medication dispensing machines. Nobody’s allowed to talk to you when you’re pulling meds, and you’re not allowed to chat back. More and more drugs and drips require two sets of eyes in order to make sure that the first set wasn’t distracted or Doin’ It Wrong. An iPhone, with texting capability and the chance to look up things on the fly, is not going to make that better.

I am, Nice Hospital Administrator Person, already distracted enough. Between caring for two or three acutely ill patients in a critical care unit, being an extra set of hands for the other nurses I work with and acting as charge nurse, unit secretary, patient care aide, housekeeping staff, diplomatic envoy and watchdog, I have enough to do without ever leaving the nurses’ station. Please do not make it possible for me to screw up faster and with more technology.

Sometimes, all I need to fix a potential error is a few seconds—literally—of quiet contemplation and review. I want to keep that space open, not fill it with a weeble-wooble sound alerting me to a high-priority communication from Management.

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