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Nurses warned not to use own phones for work

Nurses should avoid the temptation to use their own mobile phones for work purposes, the Royal College of Nursing has warned.

The college said that if nurses needed to use their phones regularly for work their employers should provide them and advised nurses to be aware of the risks when using smartphone applications to make clinical decisions, or record and send patient information.

It has published new guidance (see document attached, right) in response to a growing number of members raising concerns about the use of mobile devices at this year’s RCN Congress in Harrogate.

The RCN noted that smartphones were useful tools, which allowed nurses to communicate, photograph wounds, make calculations, and access guidelines and information via the internet.

However, it highlighted the results of a 2010 survey of clinicians in which 80 per cent of nurses and midwives that carried mobile phones admitted to using their own phone for work.

The RCN said nursing staff should not “bear the brunt of costs” of work related phone usage. It called on NHS organisations to supply equipment where staff routinely needed to use mobile devices.

Guideline author Alison Wallis, an e-health advisor at the RCN, said: “We are against the regular use of mobile phones for work purposes but we accept there are times when they may have to be used in an emergency, for example.”

She said the growth in nurses having their own mobile phones had led to staff being “tempted” to use them for work.

“There is a concern that pressure would be put on nurses to use their own phone, although we aren’t saying that may be a conscious decision by employers,” she said. “If they need to regularly use their phones the employer should provide them.”

Ms Wallis also warned nurses not to record or transmit patient data with their own mobile devices due to the potential for breaching confidentiality. She added that there was also a safety issue for staff if patients got hold of their personal phone number.

The dramatic rise in mobile applications, commonly known as “apps”, was a key risk highlighted in the RCN guidance. It advised nurses to make sure they could properly evaluate an app’s usefulness before downloading it.

Ms Wallis said: “Nurses are taking the responsibility on themselves using these apps. If they are downloading them and using them, they could be basing clinical decisions on unreliable information.”

She added that she hoped the guidance could be used by nurses to discuss mobile phone usage with their managers and employers.

Readers' comments (8)

  • And how about staff being asked not to be using their phones for personnal use whilst at work!

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  • Even where the NHS does supply mobile phones to staff they are only basic and do not have camera or the ability to run 'apps'. In my Trust only VSMs get iPhones and arguably they don't need the key features or are more able to buy their own.

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  • The concept of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is becoming common place in the private sector for phones, laptops, tablets etc, do the RCN really want to just be a bunch of luddites on this?

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  • I think the RCN are right in that nurses are being required to use their own resources more and more. Laptops, phones with cameras, etc. are almost expected. There's no PCT I ever worked for that saw the need for a nurse to have access to a laptop or web based evidence or any other practice resources at work until we brought our own kit. Then they came to expect that we'd provide our own equipment and even used that as a reason for still not providing it as work tools!

    The same nurses are still expected to take home their soiled and fouled work clothing and launder it with their family washing too. Apparently, that's OK as long as the water is hot enough!

    It isn't luddite to point out that some staff groups are being exploited!

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  • Stella - give yourself a shake and lose the chip on your shoulder. And use some common sense and separate your work clothes from the family laundry!

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  • It's not 1976... the reason I know this is that 1) We have had a shocking summer, and 2) A great many of us now have personal ICT kit which is more up-to-date and capable than that which our employers provide.

    Forward thinking Trusts are embracing the 'BYOD' culture and, via appropriate policy and technical measures, tapping into the benefits of those staff willing to use their own iPhone, iPad or other device for business purposes. Some Trusts have met users part way and contributed to their mobile tariff - still representing a saving over a Trust supplied device and assisting the staff in attaining their desired mobi.

    Providing the confidentiality and information security angles are covered, BYOD is beneficial to all. It's long been known however that the iPhone, as an example, represents a gold standard in information security and is also a doddle to integrate with mail and calendars.

    And why wouldn't you want to operate just one device, instead of a 'personal' and 'work' phone.

    The luddites are the ones who don't embrace these possibilities and grasp what the private sector already has.

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  • Anon 3:27 - a proper device management solution needs to be in place to make BYOD safe. At the moment very few NHS orgs have this in place for any device thats not a 'work device'. Without a device management system any device should not be used for work purposes in my opinion...

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  • Completely agree with previous poster - BYOD sounds fine but the devil's in the detail, particularly who owns the info on the device and what happens if you lose it/ break it/ change job!

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