Posted on Thu, May. 30, 2002
Hospital to track nurses
SYSTEM TO HELP PATIENTS RAISES PRIVACY CONCERNS
By Putsata Reang
A new high-tech tracking system at Washington Hospital that allows supervisors to track the whereabouts of their nurses is expected to help hospitals run more efficiently and patients get a nurse's attention faster.
However, some hospital employees say Big Brother may be watching a bit too closely.
``It's a violation of my privacy and a waste of resources,'' said Ken Krider, a nurse in the intensive care unit who opposes the new program. ``They'll see if I'm 30 seconds late or take a 31-minute break or go to the bathroom three times. I don't want that.''
Washington Hospital spokesman Christopher Brown said the Fremont hospital has not received any complaints about the tracking system from employees, adding it is intended to help patients. Administrators have yet to determine who must wear the badges and other requirements of the program, such as whether staff members would have to carry the badges at all times. However, he said, ``In order for a system like this to work, everyone has to take part.''
Washington Hospital will launch the real-time tracking system when it officially opens its newly remodeled sixth floor medical surgery unit next month. It has already been used in a pilot program on the third floor and there are plans to expand the system to the entire hospital.
The program, created by Michigan-based Versus Technology, would require nurses to wear infrared identification badges so that their supervisors -- and their patients -- can find them easily. Sensors about the size of a cup coaster placed on the ceiling will detect the nurse's badge and relay the information via infrared signals to a computer, which will record the location in real-time.
Versus Technology first tried the program at a Philadelphia pediatric hospital seven years ago. As many as 400 hospitals across the country -- including several in California -- now use the system for various purposes including tracking down a patient file and locating a person, said Stephanie Bertschy, Versus' director of marketing.
In addition to tracking people instantly, the system would create a record of how long a patient waited for a nurse to arrive after pushing a call button, how many times the nurse was in the room, and how long he or she stayed. Once the nurse enters the patient's room, the call button automatically turns off.
``I could see where my nurses are if a doctor is looking for a specific nurse,'' said Alice Santos, a 23-year veteran of Washington Hospital and director of the medical and surgical nursing program on the third floor, which launched the pilot. ``Otherwise, you're running up and down the hall trying to find the nurse.''
Santos said the system also cuts back on the noise in hospitals as fewer people are paged over intercoms.
``We're not using it as a tool to monitor how long their breaks are,'' Santos said. ``We're not using it in a punitive method.''
However, privacy groups worry the system could be abused.
``The kind of environment they're working under now is one of total surveillance,'' said Sarah Andrews, research director at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a public-interest research agency in Washington, D.C. ``You can be watched every time you go to the bathroom. It puts you in an uncomfortable situation.''
Andrews said there are no federal laws prohibiting this type of surveillance by an employer; however, individuals may have some grounds for legal action if their privacy is violated.
Krider said he's taken an informal poll of other staff members who share his same worries about privacy rights.
``For the nurses understaffed and overworked, this just adds a new unit of paranoia,'' Krider said.
Contact Putsata Reang at firstname.lastname@example.org
or (510) 790-7312
See both pro's and con's of this system...only seems fair for Doc's , Respiratory Therapy etc to be tracked too!IMO
Jun 1, '02
That is another huge issue I have with this. "So the doctors can find us..." What about when they don't call us back, if at all, for a long time and the patient is circling the drain? Maybe they should have to wear one and the families should have access to their whereabouts! I have had doctors come into the nurses station, sit down, then yell for a nurse to get them the chart they want. Most of my colleagues don't answer them but a few do. I always say to them if I am at the desk and they want me to get up and get them the chart "legs broken?"
They tried to do that answer the phone in 2 rings crap here and it never got off the ground.
The suits clearly have far too much time on their hands. And this idea that nurses are the physicians handmaidens idea had just got to die the death it should have many years ago.
Last edit by fedupnurse on Jun 1, '02
Jun 1, '02
OK when and if the place I work does this, I shall work there NO MORE, period, end of story. Over and OUT! ***shakes her head in disgust.***** what is next? COW BELLS????? Like some said earlier, this concept would go over *LIKE A FART IN CHURCH* w/ the "professionals" such as our suits, dr's, phamacists, OT's PT's, RT's, etc. NURSES are "professionals" too and worthy of MUCH better treatment and integrity than this!!! sheesh!!!
Last edit by SmilingBluEyes on Jun 1, '02