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Archive ORX Proceedings 2013

Fighting the 'Gizmo Addiction'

Personal electronic devices are distracting from patient care.

Jim Burger

Jim Burger, Senior Editor


fighting gizmo addiction ◙ IRRESISTIBLE? Residents surf the Internet even when they know they're being observed, says Donna Ford, MSN, RN-BC, CNOR.
◙ SCARY THOUGHT There's a good chance your staff members are checking e-mail during time outs, says Peter Papadakos, MD

It wasn't enough for audience members to silence their smartphones. No, anesthesiologist Peter Papadakos, MD, wanted them to turn the devices on their faces while he spoke. Seriously, he said: Turn your phones over. Good, now the world's foremost expert on distracted doctoring has your undivided attention — unlike the scene in most operating rooms.

"Everybody's addicted to their gizmos," says Dr. Papadakos. When you come onto the surgical wing, you pass the unit secretary "who is texting on her smartphone," then the nurse, "who is surfing the Web," then the resident, "who is gaming on his tablet."

And while those distractions are a concern, the bigger concern is what's happening in the OR.

"Everything we learn about time outs and other precautions is meaningless if we don't focus our staff," says Dr. Papadakos. "How many people realize that their staffs aren't paying attention during time outs, because they're busy checking Facebook and e-mails?"

When asked whether they were concerned about distracted perioperative team members, 83% of the attendees said they were.

The solution: raise awareness, build and enforce a strict communication policy, create a space where personal electronic devices aren't allowed and teach by example.

"Airline pilots don't allow themselves to be distracted by social media, because they themselves do not want to die," says Dr. Papadakos. "To replicate that in health care, we'd have to say: If there's a wrong-site surgery or other error, we will shoot everybody in the OR."

The line was intended to draw laughter — and it did — in an entertaining presentation on distracted doctoring by Dr. Papadakos, of the University of Rochester (N.Y.) Medical Center, and Donna Ford, MSN, RN-BC, CNOR, nursing education specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. But as Dr. Papadakos points out: "The digital nightmare is not farcical. It's happening at your institution."

The point was driven home when the audience was asked if they text and drive. Somewhat shockingly, 50% admitted that they do.

Another question posed to the audience was designed to mimic the test given to alcoholics: "Do you reach for your personal electronic device first thing in the morning?" More than half (52%) answered in the affirmative.

"Have some guidelines, because new technology may just increase the problem," says Ms. Ford. "Believe it or not, there was one study done where residents and CRNAs were told they were being observed, and 54% still surfed the Internet!"

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