Safe Cell Phone Etiquette in Health Care Setting

In 2000, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued a landmark report stating that medical error was responsible for between 44,000 and 98,000 patient deaths annually. The report cited features within our complex health care system that set providers up to fail. Cell phones were not prevalent in the health care landscape back then as they are now. Most providers have their own personal cell phones, and increasingly, health care facilities are turning to cell phones as a primary means of professional communication with providers and between providers and patients. To our knowledge, there has been no research into the affect it has on the quality of health care provided. The Connecticut Nurses Foundation would like to take the lead with this issue to ensure the use of cell phones for promotion of patient safety while reducing their potential for distractions. We are asking you to do your part in this vital mission. We ask that you take a pledge to use discretion in the professional and personal use of your cell phone.

Guidelines for Safe Cell Phone Etiquette in the Health Care Setting

1. Turn Your Cell Phone Ringer Off
If you have your cell phone at work, it should not ring. Set it on Vibrate or in Airplane Mode.

2. Use your cell phone only for Urgent Calls
If the call is important, use your cell phone away from the patient care area.

3. When Expecting an “Important” Call
If you are expecting an important call, and by “important,” we mean a call from a doctor or a call by somebody who is taking care of your kids, then give advance warning to those you will be interacting with that you may receive a call you will have to take. When you do take the call, however, excuse yourself and walk somewhere private. Otherwise, let your voicemail or text pick up the call and call that person back later.

4. Let Your Cell Phone Calls Go to Voice Mail
While you are at work if you are in doubt about whether an incoming call is important, let voice mail pick it up. It will take much less time to check your messages than it will to answer the call and then tell the caller you can’t talk. Tell your family to use the text option for non-emergent calls and then read them on your break or once in a non-patient area.

5. Find a Private Place to Make Cell Phone Calls
While it’s okay to use your cell phone at work for private calls, talk in a non-patient area, where your conversation can’t be overheard, even if what you’re discussing isn’t personal.

6. Do not use your cell phone during Med Pass
Place your cell phone on vibrate. Let your family know you will call them at break. Med Pass Interruptions are too dangerous. If personal use cannot be avoided, such as in a family emergency, use common sense and discretion.

7. Don’t talk on your Cell Phone in the Restroom … Ever
This rule should apply to using your cell phone at work or anywhere. You never know who’s in there; the person on the other end of the line will hear bathroom sounds, e.g., toilets flushing; it is an invasion of your co-workers’ privacy.

8. Don’t Bring Your Cell Phone to Meetings

Even if you have your cell phone set to vibrate, if you receive a call or text you will be tempted to see who it’s from. Wait until the meeting is concluded before you look. It is Rude to look during the meeting.

9. Keep Voice volume normal
Mind your volume while you are talking on a cell phone. Keep your voice at a normal tone when using a cell phone.

10. Privacy Issues
Remember HIPPA and the need to keep patient information private. Do not speak on the phone to a provider while other patients are listening to the conversation. Walk to a private area or ask for a moment of privacy if another patient or their family is at the nurse’s station.
In short, be mindful of those around you at all times when using a cell phone. Just as you wouldn’t want to hear somebody’s personal business as they talk to somebody standing right next to them, others will not want to hear the details of your personal life as you gab on the phone.

11. Interrupting Conversations
In short, don’t do it. If you are speaking to somebody when your phone rings, casually turn it off and finish the conversation. You can easily see who called you, and return the call later; when it will not be rude to the person you are speaking with. Obviously, if you are awaiting a very important call, it is alright to interrupt the conversation, but it is best to explain why you are doing so. If possible, let the person know ahead of time that the call may be coming in. Apologize when you are finished with the call. Then turn the phone off, so it will not ring again.

12. Cell Phone Use in the OR

The American College of Surgeons (ACS) has approved a statement on use of cell phones in the operating room (Bulletin of the American College of Surgeons, 93(9), September 2008). In the statement, the ACS discouraged the “undisciplined” use of cellular devices in the operating room.

_____I have read the guidelines and will not use my cell phone for personal use while providing patient care
_____I will be aware of using safe cell phone etiquette among providers and patient
_____I will share this information with my colleagues

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