5 Powerful Tips to Handle Technology Changes in Nursing (and Not Go Crazy!)

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

Things are changing. Fast. It seems like every time you turn around at work, there’s new technology: new ways to document, upgrades to the medication-dispensing machines or a new social media platform the company encourages you to “like” or join. Is your head spinning or what?

Many days, you spend so much time fiddling with the new technology that you wonder if time and care is being taken away from the patient, or if the patient feels left out or dehumanized. But none of the changes are intended to negatively affect your patient care (as ironic as that may seem).

There are ways that a busy nurse can handle the changes and still stay safe, sane and patient-focused. Here are five etiquette tips to help you navigate around all the new gadgetry while making your patient your number one priority.

Scan the Barcode, Not the Patient.

People don’t want to feel like a product at the grocery store. Most hospitals now use some form of barcode/scanning system for patients’ medication and supplies. I’m sure many of us have seen nurses silently walk into a room, scan a patient and then hand the patient something. Not a good scene.

Technology is just a tool we’re using.We need to remind ourselves of this. It cannot take precedence over care, touch, presence and empathy.


  • Make eye contact
  • Smile
  • Introduce yourself
  • Explain what you’re going to do

Sounds like Nursing 101, right? But in a rush, these highly important basics can be forgotten.


Remember Your Telephone Etiquette.

The telephone is obviously a major means of communication. In many hospitals, you have a portable phone you carry throughout your shift. This phone becomes the primary way for patients, other nurses, physicians, family members and others to reach you. They’re very convenient and they lower the “yell” factor—if you’re out of earshot, someone can call you instead of calling out for you or searching the halls and rooms needlessly.

Nevertheless, basic phone etiquette rules need to be remembered. Here are just a few:

  • When speaking on the phone with a patient, remember confidentiality and be aware of your physical location (in another patient’s room, in a hallway, etc.)
  • Be mindful of nonverbal communication, especially if you’re in front of another patient. Do not roll your eyes or display any other derogatory behavior. This sounds simple, but sometimes when we’re busy our bodies react quickly to added pressure and stress. These reactions may include outward displays of negativity. What do you think the patient in front of you will think if she sees you rolling your eyes or crossing your arms while speaking with another patient or family member
  • Be considerate of the amount of time you are on the phone, particularly if you’re in another patient’s room. Do you need to excuse yourself to see the other patient immediately or resume the conversation after you finish caring for the patient in front of you?


When Gathering Patient Information, Don’t Forget the Patient.

When asking a patient for information and reading the questions from a computer, it’s easy to become so engrossed in entering the information that we literally forget to look at the patient. It goes without saying that you need to look at the computer when inputting information, but don’t forget the patient, either! Here are a few tips:

  • Make eye contact often
  • Really listen to the patient
  • Try not to position the computer like a huge wall between you and the patient


Remember your social media and email manners.

Social media, including websites like Facebook and YouTube, is becoming increasingly popular. People use social media for a variety of purposes, but as nurses we must be aware of the rules for using social media at our workplaces. For example, just because you are on your break doesn’t mean you can use the company computer to update your Facebook status—this is prohibited in some workplaces. Find out what the rules are and do not make assumptions.

Some nurses may not participate in social media. If that’s your choice, that’s more than okay. Just because it’s the latest trend doesn’t necessarily mean you need to jump on it. Part of staying grounded is setting boundaries. If it’s not mandatory to participate in your workplace’s social media website and you are struggling to keep up with all the other tech changes, then don’t burden yourself with it. Take on what you can at the moment, and keep learning and trying new things at a pace that feels right for you.

If you do participate in social media, remember to be courteous. This goes for email as well. Because you’re not face-to-face with the person you are communicating with, it can be challenging to convey your point. A few quick pointers:

  • Do not type in all caps (this is considered yelling)
  • Do not leave the subject field blank
  • Be careful when sending emails to a group. Does everyone in the group really need to receive the email?
  • Do not give out personal information (especially protected health information)

Respect confidentiality.

When using social media, you must remember to respect patient confidentiality. Whether you’re posting something on your workplace’s Facebook page or you’re creating your own YouTube video, it’s important to adhere to the rules of protected health information. Don’t get so wrapped up in the fun of social media that you forget about patient confidentiality.

Dealing with the constant technology changes within the workplace can be challenging. Nevertheless, remembering the basics of etiquette, safety and confidentiality can go a long way to keeping you safe and sane on the job!

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.


  1. As a seasoned nurse of 45 years, I embrace the technology changes. Gone are the days of excessive hand written nurses notes, medication sheets and discharge instructions. I feel more time is now spent at the bedside. I just attended a class on secure texting of MDs. I am 65 and still love my career.

  2. Left nursing due to this very issue. Saddens me, but it felt wrong to have my face staring at a computer screen all shift. I missed the contact with patients, families, coworkers.

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