Is Technology Making You Bad at Your Nursing Job?

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

Technology is a beautiful thing. Most of us can’t imagine doing our jobs without it. But sometimes, overindulging in email, texts, and social networking might actually hinder your performance as a nurse.

We’ve identified five ways your iPhone, BlackBerry, Facebook, and that endless information superhighway are actually making you worse at your job.


1. Instant messaging is twisting your words

2. You’re afraid of the phone

3. You never unplug

4. You’ve forgotten how to fax

5. Social media is distracting you

Instant message is twisting your words (and making you lazy) .

Remember when email revolutionized business communication? All of a sudden, memos were obsolete, no one knew where the fax machine was anymore (or how to use it), and conference calls were set up only on an as-needed basis. Employees everywhere rejoiced in their new-found efficiency.

But the email revolution was just the tip of the iceberg. In the past few years, instant messaging has become an acceptable intra-office communication tool and, in many ways, we should be grateful for its emergence. It’s faster, less formal, and more interactive than email, and yet it lacks the commitment face-to-face or over-the-phone interaction demands.

The perfect formula, right?


There are just too many misunderstandings when body language, vocal intonation, and facial expressions are left out of a conversation. Plus, how many times has a chat about something work-related degenerated into an all-out gossip marathon?

When all you have to do is share a link or ask a quick question, by all means, send an IM. For most everything else, though, it’s a no-no.

Get off your lazy butt and start talking to each other.

You’re afraid of the telephone.

The phone rings and you panic. Before you pick it up, you want to know who it is, why they’re calling, and what they want from you. You hate being put on the spot. Caller ID gives away nothing, so you let it go to voicemail.

Diagnosis? Phonephobia (it really is a thing!) — and you’re not alone. These days, a lot of us feel more comfortable communicating through email, IM, Twitter, text, carrier pigeon … anything but the telephone. We avoid it at all costs, but then waste time playing phone tag. Or worse — forget to return the call!

You may not have to use it all the time, but shying away from the telephone when you do need it isn’t helping anyone — least of all you. Having a good phone manner can even give you a competitive advantage. The higher up you get, the more time you’ll probably spend on the telephone. So you might want to get used to using it.

If you’re terrified of your judgmental coworkers, sneak into an empty hospital room or go outside to the courtyard. At the very least, practice with friends. Next time you’re tempted to send a text, make a call instead! It sounds weird and old-fashioned, but being comfortable (or awkward) on the phone really is just a matter of practice (or lack thereof).

You never unplug .

Do you check Outlook before you’ve even gotten out of bed in the morning? Are your Saturdays spent catching up on work over VPN? Does your spouse want to throw your Blackberry off a cliff (or worse — at you)?

This constant access may help you stay ahead of your workload, but it can be detrimental to your professional longevity. How are you going to stay energized a year from now when you’re burning the candle at both ends today?

Obviously, there are times when you need to do work outside your hospital shift, but don’t let this become a habit. If you never take a break, you’ll never have a chance to recharge — and your work quality is sure to suffer. Sending an email at 3pm on a Saturday may also give the impression that you don’t manage your time effectively.

Sometimes a work demand can’t wait until your next hospital shift, but let’s face it:

Usually it can. Learn to spot the difference.
You’ve forgotten how to use the fax machine (or never learned in the first place).

Does the paper go face down or face up? Is that the sound it’s supposed to make? Where can I find that stupid cover sheet anyway? Do I even need one?

If these questions have crossed your mind lately, you’re probably of a generation that only uses email to send documents back and forth.

But no matter how tech-savvy you are there may just come a time when you need to use the fax machine. If you’re fumbling around like an idiot, you’re not doing anything for your professional reputation.

The good news is it’s a pretty simple — if archaic — device. Find your nearest fax machine, learn its number, and ask your nursing supervisor for a quick tutorial. Then file away this knowledge knowing full well you may never use it (because now that you’re actually prepared, Murphy’s Law says you won’t need it!).

Facebook and Twitter are distracting you (and ruining your reputation)
Don’t pretend like you don’t use it on company time.

We all know social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter can impact your on-the-job productivity. And the more acceptable its use becomes, the bigger the distraction.

You don’t really even care what your cousin’s friend’s cat is doing, but you also can’t help looking. Before you know it, it’s an hour later and you’re chatting with your old roommate or browsing through photos of your boyfriend’s ex.

As if it weren’t bad enough that you waste countless hours on these sites every week, your friends continue to tag you in the most embarrassing — or worse, incriminating — photos.

How do you cope? To minimize your time on these sites, turn off email notifications. That way you can log off and not be tempted to return 20 minutes later. And when it comes to protecting your online reputation, take advantage of Facebook’s privacy settings. This is a good idea not just for your professional reputation, but for personal safety as well.

Tempted to shun modern technology and revert back to 1985? Don’t be! Just keep in mind that sometimes being too obsessed with your gadgets and gizmos can get you into trouble. Know when (and how!) to go the old-fashioned route, tame your distractions, and force yourself to unplug from time to time. Your career — and your loved ones! — will thank you.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.


  1. He needs to come down many pegs and maybe lose a position or two! Apathy and cockiness are two of the most dangerous attitudes in healthcare.

  2. Sadly EMR’s have driven many excellent physicians into early retirement and the software is still duplicative and overly time consuming. As a patient (RN for over 4 decades of ICU, trauma, flight and ems, ed and neuro) I found the nurses mostly spent time with back to me (ICU and tele) charting and when crisis struck it was “call the QRT”. I have an RN ( old school) with me in the hospital and if my disabled husband is an inpatient I’m there 24/7. Even at UCLA and level 1 in Oregon. Safer.

  3. Times are changing and we need technology or we are going to fall behind. As a not too old nurse, I have to do
    my charting on the computer, but I find myself not leaving work as scheduled because I am concerned about patient care. I would do my hourly checks and find that the newer nurses don’t. Their only in a rush to finish the EMR. I can’t blame them, administration don’t care and make it hard on all of us.

  4. Social media, IMs, email are not the problem. Its EMR. New generation of nurses are now robots. 90% of time spent with computer 10% with the patient (imo).

  5. As an “Old School” taught RN, it saddens me to see how far we’ve come with technology and how much we’ve lost in our abilities to assess and handle situations without the use of a computer directing us!!! For instance: when I’d walk into a patient room and found they were dyspnic, I immediately knew what to assess-vs, pulse ox, lung sounds, weight, check for edema throughout, ask patient certain questions, get a CXR, get lab such as D-dimer, per order give prn Lasix, notify MD and Charge Nurse, call rapid as needed, transfer to a higher level of care as needed!!! Today’s RN when computer charting, puts in an assessment that triggers a hierarchy of questions and what to do!

    Not that long ago, I personally experienced the incompetency of a “know it all new grad”! He was hooking up an antibiotic along with a 100cc bag of saline flush thru a new IMED I was unfamiliar with, so I asked him about the machine. He went on to tell me how this new machine, recently added to the hospital inventory was the cat’s meow, it had a library and all one needed to do was to locate the medication in the system and punch the button and it was preset with the rate and volume for that med! I responded by telling him, that as an old nurse ” I appreciate how far we’ve come yet it also saddens me to think we are losing the science and art of nursing!” Mr Smart Alec, waived his hand at me and said “this stuff is just easy smeasy!” Well you know what, an hour later when that machine blasted me awake, ??? that Moran forgot to open the roller clamp and all I got was the saline and the Levaqin was still hanging???”. So much for easy smeasy!!! I told my fellow nurse friend (both of us were Charge Nurses) about this episode and like she said “You can train a monkey to push a button?????!


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