It IS a very good thing, if used properly. If you have multiple laboring or NST patients who need monitoring, it helps enormously. But being lazy and letting the monitors do the work for you----bad thing. (and many do this).
It can foster a false sense of security in some---and some become too reliant on them to warn when something is wrong. THIS OFTEN FAILS.
Example: I had a patient come in to rule out labor, no troubling history or report other than contractions for several hours------routine enough start, you would think. It OF COURSE, was at change of shift, on a VERY busy shift, when there were multiple things going on, babies on low sugars, another woman pushing and tearing horribly and a fresh csection being recovered. This lady could not have come at a worse time, staffing wise.
Well, NO warning bell went off, yet I happened to glance up at the monitor screen and see the baby looked "a little flat" (there were 2 others on monitors---so it was hard to see the true pattern going on). Anyhow, I felt I should check it out, went into the room, pulled out the strip and had a look----- and not only was baby flat as hell, but there were subtle late decels occuring with EVERY contraction and baseline was rising rapidly from 140 to 160. The lates never dipped more than 5-10 below baseline. THIS IS THE WORST KIND OF PATTERN and one the system did not have built in it to warn us, nor was it easily seen on the screen cause it was so small a picture. The system saw this as "normal" based on the numbers, alone. What presented as a routine labor ruleout turned into a stat csection. (baby, which was bathed in thick, particulate meconium and whose pH had started to drop, was ok after a few days in our SCN.)
The moral of story is, nothing replaces a vigilant and attentive, well-trained nurse/health care provider on the job.[/] Central monitoring is wonderful, when used right----but you still need trained and attentive eyes looking at things and seeing the WHOLE picture, the whole patient, from head to toe, or it does not mean a hill of beans. It's just a tool in our toolbox, period. Not a babysitter.