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Cell Phones for Nurses – at Work?

August 16th, 2010 by – Marijke Durning

Cell phones haven’t been around for all that long – at least not for general use. But, they’ve been around long enough for people to get used to them and even addicted to them. Nurses are not immune to the pull and convenience of mobile technology, so many – if not most in some places – have a cell phone.

While having a cell phone is your own business, when you bring your phone to work, it becomes the employer’s business. And this is where some nurses and their administrations clash.

In general, nurses and nursing assistants are told they may use their cell phones at work, while on shift. What they do with their phones during break times, in appropriate settings, is up to them. Some facilities take it a bit further, saying that the nursing staff can’t have their phones on their person – not in their pocket, not in their fanny pack – while working, but they may leave them in their lockers to be used during break times.

Both of these policies seem fair. After all, the nursing staff is paid to work, not chat on the phone. Sadly, all too often, some nurses and aides are seen answering their phone while they are in a patient’s room, giving patient care. Others, aware that they aren’t supposed to be using their phone, will hide in empty rooms or supply rooms to take or receive calls. And for those who don’t want to be caught talking, there’s always text messages that go back and forth.

So, why are some staff members so against these policies? Reading on forums and in chat rooms, one would think that not allowing cell phones was a breach against democracy, shutting you off from the world. “What if there’s a family emergency?” they ask. What did nurses do before cell phones? They called the facility and reported that it was a family emergency. It’s not as if there is no option.

There is, of course, the other side of the story. For example: a parent who works 12-hour shifts, which means he or she is away from home for at least 13 to 14 hours. If the children are too old for daycare, the nurse may work better and be able to concentrate better when  the children can call to say they’ve gotten home from school, ask for permission to go out, or if they have a problem they can’t solve.

Add to the single parent, the nurse who is caring for a parent or who has a loved one in the hospital. By having their phone with them, on vibrate, they are available without disturbing anyone else. If the nurses can’t answer the phone right away, when they have a moment, they can excuse themselves and go check the message in a private place. As for the relative in the hospital, someone may be texting the nurse to keep them up-to-date on the relative’s status. This way, the nurse gets to work the shift and not feel that she needs to be at the relative’s bedside.

The problem is though – for some reason – despite the vast majority of adults being adults and acting like adults, many don’t. They would take advantage of this and abuse the policy, making it difficult for those who wouldn’t.

There are many professions and jobs that make it impossible to use a cell phone during work hours. It’s quite simple. Cell phones shouldn’t be used during work hours. For nurses, that means while working with patients or doing nursing tasks.

So, what is the solution?

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Posted in Work-Life Balance

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