Smartphones for Bedside Nurses: Is it time for BYOD?

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For more than a decade I have been carrying two phones with me – a personal phone and one supplied by my employer. Quite frankly, I appreciate not having to worry about messaging the wrong person, managing my data, or even paying more than one phone bill. Not to mention each of my cell phones subscribes to different cell phone carriers or companies, which has also proven quite helpful through my travels across the country. However, today it is easier to manage multiple usage profiles on one device and secure proprietary information with mobile device management (MDM) policies, so I am not surprised to hear that I will need to consolidate soon.

Recently, I have been asked if I think hospitals should establish bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies for nurses. More specifically, the device in question would most likely be a smartphone. First, we need to recognize that not all nurses share the same roles and responsibilities. When considering Advance Practice Nurses such as Nurse Practitioners or non-direct patient care nurses in leadership & management roles, case managers, or community health nurses, BYOD is economical and convenient on and even off hospital grounds. These nurses' work processes are different than nurses at the bedside, in emergency departments, or procedural areas where the work remains in patient care areas on hospital grounds.

Smartphones are great in the hands of bedside nurses, since they are familiar tools that have already improved communication efficiency in our everyday lives, delivering the right information, to the right person, at the right time. With access to smartphones, nurses can triage calls and messages with distinct sounds or text a physician on the approved secure clinical communication application without taking extra steps to figure out who is on call or waiting for a paged call-back. These and other additional processes can be accomplished through integrating smartphones with nurse call systems, cardiac telemetry systems, role-based texting, and overall alarm safety and alert management software.

For nurses providing direct care and using their personal smartphones, one must consider contamination risks and compatibility with cleaners for infectious contaminants, including blood. BYOD may seem economical for the health system by saving the cost of purchasing and maintaining phones, but if BYOD is not mandatory, additional smartphones should still be made available for those who choose not to use their own phones. Otherwise, another disparity in care is introduced with non-standard care delivery, and employees would not have the tools to be successful at their jobs. What happens when the battery dies? The risk of computer viruses or system updates "breaking" phones may increase. One might say that nurses could also use the same phones as physicians, but some commercial smartphones are quite expensive. Would hospitals be willing to provide a stipend for personal smartphone purchases and replacements?

Smartphones for bedside nurses are excellent tools for boosting collaboration in the care environment. From my experience in working with more than one hundred health care organizations across the country and almost 20 years of care delivery, I would encourage hospitals to hold off on BYOD for bedside nurses, and in the meantime, equip them with enterprise smart devices to streamline, facilitate, and expedite necessary clinical communications.


May 30, 2017