A real concern or not?

Nurses General Nursing

Published

In the ICU that I work in, we have a "No Cell Phone Use in ICU" policy. The stated reason is that supposedly, the cell phone signal can interfere with our monitors, our pacemakers, our balloon pumps, etc . . . , any of our electrical patient care equipment. So, I am always having to ask patient's family not to use their cell phones in the unit, to please go out of the unit to make/take calls. Once in a while, a feisty family member will point to this nurse or that doctor who is texting away on their smart phone . . . and I give them some "mumbo-jumbo" about texting being different (although, I don't think so!!).

We all know that there are electromagnetic signals from radio, TV, satellites, the sun, and handheld phones going every which way, everywhere. I wonder if the cell phone ban is based on real evidence or "mumbo-jumbo science"? (I'm going to Google, now!)

Specializes in CCU, SICU, CVSICU, Precepting & Teaching.

years ago they found that cell phone signals interfered with our iv pumps. one patient got 25,000 units of heparin in just an hour and an investigation revealed that a cell phone signal caused the pump to malfunction. that may or may not -- probably not -- be an issue these days. what is an issue is that family members on cell phones while visiting in the icu cause noise pollution. all those ring tones, multiple people standing around the room chatting about their weekend plans or how angry they are at the parking attendant, the md, the nurse, mom's roommate, etc. (with voices getting louder and louder as they get wound up) and no one seems to have the courtesy to silence their rings or speak in lowered voices so the patients can rest. at any one time, each patient may have two visitors, and each visitor might be talking to someone else on their cell phones. as more and more people talk, everyone's voices get raised so they can hear above the hub-bub. it gets so you can't hear yourself think, much less hear your patient's distant heart tones.

another issue is infection control. more and more of our patients are in isolation, and it's not unusual to see visitors (or even physicians) in full isolation garb whipping their cellphones out to take a call in the isolation rooms. (we've threatened to culture some of those physician cell phones -- but haven't managed to pry them loose long enough to do so.)

if you're visiting a hospital patient, you ought to be visiting that patient. if you want to talk to someone else, courtesy would dictate that you leave the room rather than make mom, her nurse, her roommate and her roommate's visitors listen to you fight with your boyfriend or snark at your sister.

there are exceptions, of course. but by and large, it's rude to talk on the cellphone when you're visiting mom in the hospital, getting an update from mom's nurse or physician, standing in a hospital room where mom's roommate is trying to sleep or is having a procedure done, or standing in a hallway where patients from the three rooms on either side of you must listen to your conversation.

Specializes in Med-Surg, Trauma, Ortho, Neuro, Cardiac.

Infection control concerns and rudeness aside, that's really an old school thought. We used to have that policy....about ten years ago.

We drag mobile blood pressure cuffs/pulse ox from room to room and people are worried about a cell phone creating an infection control issue??

You can manually turn off your handheld's ability to access the net.

You buy clinical info (Doc is accessing prescribing software and differential etc. databases) that will reside in whole on your PDA. So, when you look for data it only accesses it's own hard drive. This is how I use my itouch, no cellphone capability, I turn off my ability to access the internet (it won't send a signal) It then becomes a tiny computer only. I have checked this with two telemetry IT directors.

Specializes in Critical Care/Coronary Care Unit,.

I personally don't see a reason for cell phones to be banned from hospitals. I for one still take my phone with me to work. I do understand however a policy of not being able to use your cell phone at the nurse's station...go into the break room people. It just looks unprofessional to be texting away while your patient is in the room...you may have done everything you needed to do..but to a family member walking in...it just looks like we're neglecting the patient.

Specializes in Oncology; medical specialty website.

Our hospital has banned Bluetooth devices, but I'm not sure why.

Specializes in Health Information Management.

Most people may be stupid about a lot of things, but they're smart enough to notice the holes in your current argument. They see health care practitioners using PDAs and smartphones in all kinds of medical setting all the time, so they know the cell phones don't really pose a danger any more. The old ones certainly did, but as you know from the stories you cited, the technology has changed substantially since the 1990s (remember those huge clunky cell phones from, say, 1998?) and no longer causes those types of issues. When you try to make up a rationale based on that outdated information, you end up looking pretty silly and people dismiss what you're saying out of hand.

So instead, I'd suggest going with the current-day concerns, like those Ruby listed. If I were a patient (well, an alert and oriented one) in a hospital and had to listen to people bellowing into their cell phones right outside my door all day, I'd be pretty aggravated. You could press the point that constant cell phone conversations make it difficult for patients to rest or even for HC providers to work effectively.

Specializes in Peds Homecare.

I listen to John Tesh, once in a while on the way home. Even though it's old, I heard this just yesterday on his show.

Two Ways Cell Phones Could Be Affecting Your Health

"Health Risk #1: Doctors’ dirty cell phones. A recent study published in the Annals of Clinical Microbiology screened the cell phones of 200 health care workers for germs. The researchers found that 19 out of 20 phones were contaminated with some kind of bacteria, and some were “superbugs” – which are resistant to antibiotics! Also, only about 10% of the health care workers in the study regularly cleaned their phones. Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist and germ expert at the University of Arizona, says that – simply put - cell phones are a haven for a variety of nasty microbes. So how can you protect yourself? Gerba says everyone should be wiping down their phones with a disinfectant wipe once or twice a day. Since you can’t clean your doctor’s phone, disinfect YOURSELF after you’ve been to the doctor or in the hospital. "

Specializes in Professional Development Specialist.
I listen to John Tesh, once in a while on the way home. Even though it's old, I heard this just yesterday on his show.

Two Ways Cell Phones Could Be Affecting Your Health

"Health Risk #1: Doctors' dirty cell phones. A recent study published in the Annals of Clinical Microbiology screened the cell phones of 200 health care workers for germs. The researchers found that 19 out of 20 phones were contaminated with some kind of bacteria, and some were "superbugs" - which are resistant to antibiotics! Also, only about 10% of the health care workers in the study regularly cleaned their phones. Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist and germ expert at the University of Arizona, says that - simply put - cell phones are a haven for a variety of nasty microbes. So how can you protect yourself? Gerba says everyone should be wiping down their phones with a disinfectant wipe once or twice a day. Since you can't clean your doctor's phone, disinfect YOURSELF after you've been to the doctor or in the hospital. "

I can imagine that just about everything you carry on your person, watch, pen, shirtsleeve, etc all have SOME sort of bacteria on them. On the other hand 20 phones tested if hardly an exhaustive study.

Specializes in ICU of all kinds, CVICU, Cath Lab, ER..

I have no problem with cell phone usage in the patient's room. I try to stress to the family the various problems with cell phone usage in the room - expecially the "bacteria on/bacteria off (hand washing) rule which I believe is extremely important.

I no longer wage war with family members and rooms filled with text-messaging, Kentucky Fried Chicken buckets, **** poor attitudes and my most favorite: "sir, I need to have quick access to the patient so can

you take the five chairs around the bed some place other than surrounding the bed.?" "No sir, I am physically unable to vault over the embankment of chairs or the entire bed, so pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee".

Oh, yes, let me share my most recent experience with a family member: patient finally stable but family on cell - with settlement expressed by family members. I am praying that lawyer arrives AFTER family leaves but no such luck. Final straw is when patient lobs cell phone at me and specifically at my head. Confiscated cell until patient leaves.

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