Cell phone use in hospitals

  1. Our hospital has signs posted all over the place about not using cell phones in the hospital. We are told they may interfere with the medical equipment. But then on TLC on shows like A Baby Story and Trauma: Life in the ER I see people using cell phones often. So, what is your hospital's policy? I have learned that no one read the sign, so I am constantly telling people to turn off the cell phones. Has anyone ever seen a cell phone actually interfere with the equipment? Just curious.
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  2. 24 Comments

  3. by   fiestynurse
    I have never heard of cell phones interfering with medical equipment. There are people with cell phones all over our hospital.
  4. by   RyanRN
    I am inclined to think those signs are there and staying there because "that's the way it always been"! We have them at my hospital also and I have often wondered just exactly WHAT kind of interference they cause? Noone can answer my question. With all the advances in these phones and medical equipment you would think it wouldn't amount to a hill of beans, but we keep the restrictive policy. I am serious noone can give me a reason.

    This is a little like the millions of other things we do, as nurses, just because" it's always been that way".

    For instance, can someone give me a reasonable rationale as to why some nurses want to know in report which IV fluids are running into which CVP port ( I get this in a peripheral line as we can determine any info on infiltrates, but central lines?) Just asking.
  5. by   Robin61970
    They used to have those at our local hospital, but they have been taken down in the last six months or so.......in fact the nurses have cell phones they carry with them all the time. They get them when they come on and turn them in at the end of shift.....I thought that was interesting.........
  6. by   Michelle_nurse
    I work in a geriatric hospital, for veterans. When I was an orderly, Once, I used my cell phone on the floor after 9pm,

    (When all the pts were in bed. (everyone takes it easy after 9pm. From 9-11:30, orderlies answer bells and do one round, plus hourly visual rounds).

    Anyway, I used my phone, to keep the hospital phone line free, since the nurse was having a personal call on the second line.
    The nurse asked me to get off my cell phone because it is not allowed in the hospital, since it may interfere with hospital equipment!!! I got off my phone at that point.

    A lot of people have cell phones, literally clipped to their belt, and on, so they can receive calls!!!! (I don't do that)

    The hospital has NO MONITORS, no ER, the only "equipment" in the hosptial is in radiology (which is not even open on evening shift), when pts are very sick, or if we are not "equiped" to traet pt, he/she is transfered to a general hospital. There are no signs to turn off cell phones.

    So, I ended up having the "privledge" to work with this guy again, and it was hilarious for me, cause his cell phone started ringing from the med room, while the supervisor made her round to the floor (supervisor stops in at least once in a shift).

    He left it ringing, pretending he didn't know where it was coming from. The supervisor said nothing about it.



  7. by   sharann
    Certain cell phones can affect Telemetry equipment and make it go haywire. Last time I worked tele, my patients box was reading V-Fib on the monitor and alarming. When I went in to check on him, he wasn't even wearing the box, he was at a test off the unit. His bedside table was in V-Fib. Now this may be a coincidence, but a woman was on her cell phone not 50 feet from the patients room (She was leaning up on the sign that strictly forbids cell phone use). Who knows?
    S
  8. by   deathnurse
    Two things...

    I'm a pilot. In its early infancy, the use of cellphones was kind of thought to have interference with radio communications and possibly navigation equipment. This has since proven to be untrue. Indeed, you can rent cellphone "inflight" if you wish to pay the high costs of connect time. The restricted the use of personal cell phones for reasons of 1.) being unsure of their effects, and 2.) Loss of income to the cellular providers on board the planes.

    Second thing...
    Microwave transmissions do generate disruptions in current flow to "some" devices. Early microwave ovens weren't as well shielded as the new models made today. Early cellphones enjoyed the same problems.

    Older heart pacemakers and older cellphones and older microwave ovens may not mix. But even then, you would have to lay on top of them with your pacemaker to have an effect on it. Most of us know that a simple magnet placed on top of an implantable pacemaker will turn it off or into override. A magnet needs to be placed in direct contact with the pacemaker. A microwave generates magnetic fields, hence the confusion. But things have changed.

    You drive a car to work, not a horse.

    You can use a cellphone on an airplane or in the OR. We all do it.

    Take the signs down. Use your cellphones.

    One last thing...a nurse should always know which drugs are going through which line/port/site, etc. Someone above wanted to know why...

    Someday they may find out the hard way...
  9. by   RyanRN
    Deathnurse, that didn't answer my question about IV and ports. I am quite serious about a reasonable rationale, do you have one.? What would make the difference, say, if I switched the D5W and dopamine from pacer to side ports and why? One should always check a pts. orders, IVs, sites and patency, so passing this on in report does nothing for me.

    I am in total agreement with you on the use of Cell phones, getting my hospital to take down the signs will only happen with an act of congress however.
  10. by   Zee_RN
    We had 1/2 of a hallway's monitors in our telemetry unit shut down and they told us it was due to cellphone usage. True? I don't know but we had to move a mess of people...

    I did read an article a while ago about how cellphones CAN interfere with monitors and ventilators but they have to be in close proximity. I posted it in the waiting room of our ICU. (I found the article on iwon.com; don't remember the source.)

    I have also heard that DIGITAL cellphones do not interfere.

    Personally, if I see a sign that says TURN OFF YOUR CELL PHONE, I do it. It's NOT a big deal; we survived for many years without having a telephone strapped to our hip every second of the day. There are payphones in the hospital.

    They have those signs around blasting areas, too, by the way.

    I'm going to go see if I can find that article...
  11. by   Zee_RN
    Found it...

    Cellular Telephones May Interfere With Medical Devices
    January 19, 2001
    Mayo Clinic Proceedings/MedscapeWire

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Cellular telephones can interfere with the operation of external devices that monitor the heart and lungs; however, in most instances, the interference was not sufficient to meaningfully hinder interpretation of data, according to a study published in the January issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

    The most severe interference occurred when the cellular telephone was held 1 to 2 inches from the most vulnerable area of external cardiopulmonary monitoring devices. Interference of some extent was measured in 7 (41%) of the 17 devices. Among the 526 tests, interference was deemed clinically important in 7.4%. Researchers recommend that additional testing be conducted. Clinically important was defined as any interference that might hinder interpretation of data or cause the equipment to malfunction.

    "When additional testing is completed, policies regarding cellular phone usage within the hospital environment can be constructed objectively," concluded David L. Hayes, MD, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist and one of the study's authors.

    The banning of cellular telephones within hospitals has not been based on objective experimental or clinical testing, but on theoretical concerns that wireless technology could interfere with medical equipment, the study's authors said. Considerable research has been done on the potential interactions of wireless technology and implanted devices, but research on the interaction of the cellular telephone and external equipment in a hospital has been general and inconclusive.

    If a cellular phone is used at some reasonable distance (60 inches in the study) from electrical equipment within the patient's room or central nursing stations, it is unlikely that any serious malfunction would occur, the researchers hypothesized.

    David Herman, MD, a Mayo Clinic ophthalmologist and John Abenstein, MD, a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist, wrote the editorial that accompanies the study's findings. They write, "it would seem reasonable either to limit or to ban the use of cellular phones in the vicinity of medical electronic devices where patients are particularly vulnerable, such as the intensive care unit and operating unit, until safety of these devices can be reasonably proven." Banning the use of the devices in a patient's room or procedure area would be a modest precaution, the editorialists wrote.

    The Mayo Clinic researchers said cell phone-related interference was seen in the electrocardiographic (ECG) tracings displayed on the physiologic monitor. It occurred at 6 to 33 inches from the monitor. If the cellular telephone was held beyond a 5 of five feet, these researchers hypothesize ECG interpretation would not be compromised. The most disturbing interference related to cell phones causing a mechanical ventilator to malfunction. when the phones were held 2 inches away from a communication port on the back of the ventilator, the ventilator shut down and restarted.

    Digital and analog cellular telephones were tested in the study. Digital phones tended to produce noise on the baseline readings, while analog phones primarily produced movement on the baseline readings of the monitors. Digital phones produced some movement on the baseline.

    Mayo Clin Proc. 2001;76:11-5
  12. by   SharonH, RN
    How's this for ridiculous? We have those signs at the entrance to our hospital also but on the telemetry floor we use.........you guessed it, cellular phones. No more pagers. I just left from there.


    Ryan, when you get an answer to your question, then answer another for me: why does it matter what side the IV is on? Is it necessary for that to be passed on in report? I mean aren't you going to find out when you do your own assessment(assuming you do one) and what if I said it's in the left hand when it is actually in the right arm? Hmmmm........
  13. by   babynurselsa
    The only equipment that I have specifically been told that a cell phone may interfere with is High Frwuency Oscillatory vents. I was told thiss specifically by a factory rep the first time I was inserviced on them. He stated that becausee these ventilators function on a frequency as does a cell phone, that the phone could possibly alter the fruequency of the vent. All I know is that I do not want to find out for sure.
  14. by   meownsmile
    The hospital i am employed in doesnt let people use cell phones. Mainly because they can interfere with telemetry used throughout the hopsital.
    However, the hospital that i do clinicals in allow cell phones on the floors, and actually use cell phones as part of their RN's work. Each RN carries a cell so she doesnt have to run to the desk and call a Dr. If a doc calls in to the floor, the unit clerk can forward the call directly to the cell phone of the RN who is caring for his patient.

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Cell phone use in hospitals