Use of Personal Communication Devices by Nurses
Personal electronic devices (PEDs) such as smartphones and tablet computers are a significant and indispensable part of our daily lives. Several researchers have documented the positive impact of personal communication devices in improving nursing services and patient outcome. Such positive results include enhancing communication, improving access to clinical information, time management and stress-relief among nurses (Oh, Yeon, Ens & Mannion, 2017). First, enhancement in communication has resulted in faster response and improved communication among health providers and therefore facilitating patient care. Furthermore, it has facilitated faster access and medical information through installed medical apps, eBooks, and digital sources (Snoots, 2016). Lastly, the use of the devices is associated with improvement in time management, and a source of emotional support among nurse providers, thereby relieving stress and potentially improved their performance and patient quality of care (Oh, Yeon, Ens & Mannion, 2017).
However, the use of personal communication is potentially detrimental in patient care and health outcome since they have been associated with increased medical errors, disruptions, negative performance and missed information (Snoots, 2016). Several studies are reporting the negative impact of the use of cellular devices in other sectors, for instance, the use of the phone while driving accounts for more than 50% of fatal road accidents (Snoots, 2016). Equally, in clinical practice, inappropriate use of the devices may result in medical errors secondary to distractions during routine nursing practice. Furthermore, the gadgets are potential infection transmission routes within and outside the hospital environment. Lastly, nurses have also complained that use of the devices near a patient is a sign of unprofessionalism since some patient may think the nurse is playing games or surfing the internet.
There is a legal and ethical implication that has been brought by the increasing proliferation of personal communication devices in places of work. One primary ethical implication among patients and medical providers is the risk associated with the breach of patients’ privacy (Snoots, 2016). For instance, the violation occurs when the devices are used to smuggle confidential information when captured or stored in staffs own devices (McBride, & LeVasseur, 2017). Furthermore, legal implication surrounding the use of the PEDs includes distraction during patient care; for instance, a phone conversation can result in medical errors such as negligence (Snoots, 2016). Notably, use of the devices at the workplace are incriminating evidentiary support during legal proceedings, and can results in suspension of the staff, substantial monetary compensation to the victims, and sanction of practicing license.
According to Farrell (2016), the use of the devices improves communication and decision-making process among clinical nurses since they contain medical references, assist in patient care coordination and facilitate information transfer among the collaborative patient care team. Therefore, there is a need for further research to realize the potential impact on clinical health outcomes. However, despite their potential benefits, Snoots (2016) highlights critical negative implication such as distraction, breach of privacy, and medical errors, and therefore recommends the enactment of rules, regulations, and policies to govern their use and protect patient safety and outcome. Moreover, several studies have also supported potential benefits of the devices and emphasized on the need for the development of guidelines to maximize the benefit of the PEDs in a hospital environment, and minimize possible adverse outcomes and distraction (Lauren & Wands, 2016; Oh, Yeon, Ens & Mannion, 2017). In summation, even though there is a positive impact on the use of smartphones and other personal electronic devices in the workplace, nurses should adhere to the hospital guidelines and regulations on their application to minimize potential ethical and legal implications.
Farrell, M. (2016). Use of iPhones by Nurses in an Acute Care Setting to Improve Communication and Decision-Making Processes: Qualitative Analysis of Nurses’ Perspectives on iPhone Use.
McBride, D. L., & LeVasseur, S. A. (2017). Personal Communication Device Use by Nurses Providing In-Patient Care: Survey of Prevalence, Patterns, and Distraction Potential. JMIR human factors, 4(2), e10. doi:10.2196/humanfactors.5110
Oh, Y., Yeon, J., Ens, T., & Mannion, C. (2017). A Review of the Effect of Nurses’ Use of Smartphone to Improve Patient Care. Retrieved from https://journalhosting.ucalgary.ca/index.php/jura/article/view/30321
Snoots, L. R. (2016). Use of personal electronic devices by nurse anesthetists and the effects on patient safety. AANA journal, 84(2), 114.