Week 8: No cell phones at the nurse’s station

Down to 5 weeks in this contract and I’m going to use the end of this week to talk about something that has always bothered me.

No cellphones at the nurse’s station.

Now, this is larger than just not having a cellphone at the desk, but here’s my 2 cents on the issue.

Basically, hospitals enact the policy where cellphone use of any kind, apart from when you are on break, isn’t allowed. Stepping back from the issue, it seems fair to ask nurses to put away their phones while on the clock. Having them out could distract and decrease likelihood of quick response to patient needs. We suffer from alarm fatigue traditionally, something compounded by the demands placed upon us during a shift. Decreasing unnecessary distractions should increase attentiveness.

I take issue with this restriction on a few points…

1. Many nurses use their cellphones as references. Epocrates, medscape, mosbys are all resources utilized while on the job to provide information on a patient’s condition or medication. They come in thick paperback books that take forever to thumb through. Why not make the search for a drug faster by electronic means? The point being as times have changed, evolving into a more technologically focused healthcare system, nurses adapt by placing applications on their phone for quick reference.

2. This is a classic example of ‘instead of disciplining the handful of offenders, let’s penalize the entire staff’. What I mean is, for some people having their cell out means they will ignore their patients. Same as when they read a magazine or take a long break or carry on their conversation while the alarm continues to buzz. That’s where the proper response by management is to lovingly correct that behavior because it can change patient outcomes. Instead of doing that, hospitals blanket discipline the entire staff over something that’s not an issue.

When the bell rings, I get up and answer it. When a family member steps out of the room, I stop what I’m doing and address the need. I’m at work, so when work calls, I answer. That’s expected and my phone does not get in the way of that response.

3. There’s a line that hospitals cross with nurses that I think cellphone use is a perfect example of. For years I’ve felt like hospitals treat nurses like cattle to be herded and treated however. Hospitals tend to be the best paying position with in the realm of professional work so they never are expected to treat nurses with a modicum of respect. Where else ya gonna work?

I think that’s the real root of my problem with this issue. Put away your cellphones, no books or magazines at the desk, no using the Internet are all examples of the way management expects obedience with no understanding of what occurs in a shift and the mental focus required to do our jobs.

What else should I be doing when my patient is asleep? I can’t check on them any more often than I do already before it boarders on creepy.

I need mental downtime. I’m hypervigilant when I’m on the clock, checking my patient, the fetal monitoring system, or whatever else orders need instituted. To tell me I can’t check my email when I have a break at the desk seems controlling to the point of dictatorship.

The edict says you don’t think I can provide quality care to my patients so you must tell me what I can and cannot do in my 12 hour shift.

What the what?

I’m made to feel like a child. It’s funny because doctors are never held to that same standard even though they are employees of the hospital also. The director of nursing at this current facility acted like she swallowed a lemon when the charge nurse asked if that applied to the doctors. A resident was standing at the desk with her phone when the question was asked and the ND said yes it does in the faintest voice ever as she turned in fled. There’s the lovely double standard that exists between doctors and nurses. 😒

Can it make us appear less professional? Possibly if it interferes with your ability to care for your patient or if you’re doing it in the patient’s room (put your phones on silent people!). The reality is we are all connected to our phones and in an emergency that’s how people get ahold of us in a hurry. I’m not saying I don’t understand why, but question the true motive behind it.

The moment you treat your nurses like expendable things without personhood, is the moment your nursing staff stops acting like people proud to work at your facility. You lose your nurses and who’s left to take care of your patients? The doctors?


And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.


One thought on “Week 8: No cell phones at the nurse’s station

  1. Pingback: Magnet Status? | Nurse C onthego

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