How Are Nurses Using Smartphones at Work?

Here’s a recent post from Not Nurse Ratched that lists five things she uses her iPhone for at work: the programs/apps or features she uses are Epocrates, the calculator, Ratios, DrugInfusion, and Instant ECG. A Web site called Software Advice recently sent us the results of a useful survey on the use of smartphones among medical personnel. The figure below shows the most popular uses of smartphones at work, not just for nurses but for a variety of health care industry workers. 

Note: survey focused on health care industry workers, one subgroup of which was nurses

We know many nurses have already begun to use whatever smartphone they may have to access 5-Minute Clinical Consult, a Wolters Kluwer product (full disclosure: AJN is owned by Wolters Kluwer) that “provides instant access to the essentials of 700+ medical conditions” and “includes dermatology images, videos of medical procedures, AAFP patient handouts, drug database and more.” It can be downloaded to many types of mobile device — iPhone, BlackBerry, Palm, Android, or Windows Mobile.

But let us know: how are you using smartphones/handheld devices at the bedside? If not, do you plan to start using one? And do they really help?
Jacob Molyneux, senior editor/blog editor
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Senior editor/social media strategy, American Journal of Nursing, and editor of AJN Off the Charts.


  1. Sara August 21, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    I use my Blackberry everyday at my office job, as do many of the doctors i work with. I primarily use it for drug reference and cannot tell you how many times it has helped me. Plus, I get clinical updates useful to my practice. My husband works at another hospital in the area and they just changed their policy from “no cell phones” to “cell phones must be silenced”. A small victory!

  2. […] by notratched August 5, 2009 at 3:25 pm via […]

  3. teenamcg August 5, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    The fear of smart phones is ridiculous. They are absolutely an essential tool for RNs.
    Recall that 110 years ago or so, nurses were banned from taking blood pressures. Only the physician was allowed to take the patient’s blood pressure. Like BP cuffs, we ought to be using our smart phones and we will! I love epocrates on my smart phone.

  4. notratched August 5, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    On the basis of a conversation on Twitter this morning with a health care professional who strongly opposes the use of smartphones, I can offer these possibilities: (1) it is unprofessional to use a smartphone during patient contact, (2) one should always calculate by hand because smartphones are unreliable, and (3) if you become reliant on tools you cannot do it yourself anymore. The point was also made that paper reference books should be used instead.

    I do not use my phone AS A PHONE while I’m working and agree that this would be unprofessional, but I strongly believe that any tool I can use to assist me in being more accurate and efficient as a nurse is entirely appropriate and professional.

    Just as using automatic blood pressure cuffs does not prevent me from knowing how to take a manual blood pressure, using an app to double-check a drug dosage does not prevent me from knowing how to calculate it by hand. As for electronic references, errors can appear in print or electronic versions of references—and I’m sure I’m not alone in being unable to locate physical books when I need them on my unit.

    I have used various PDAs since I started nursing school, and they are now required for students at the school I graduated from. Faculty have been required to have them for some time. Physicians appear to rely heavily on them. And I have yet to see a patient recoil at the sight of a smartphone/PDA: on the contrary, they are pleased that I am able to either look up or verify the information I’m giving them.

    If the (I believe, easily debunked) reasons above are rationales used by hospitals banning PDAs, then an innovative, if not essential, element of modern bedside nursing will be compromised.

  5. jm August 5, 2009 at 11:58 am

    Not Nurse Ratched, who I quoted in the post, sent this Tweet in response: “I’m concerned at the new trend of hospitals banning cell phones/PDAs. We USE those! For our jobs!” I include it here because it raises an interesting issue: I wonder how common this is, and what the rationale given by hospitals may be???

    -Jacob Molyneux, blog editor

  6. Jakki August 5, 2009 at 12:20 am

    I do not use a smart phone at the bedside. The ER I work in has a computer in every room and plenty at the nurse’s station, all with internet access.

  7. Lauren Nichols August 4, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    I use my iPhone at the bedside, mainly during medication administration – using Epocrates. A lot of the other programs must be paid for and the hospital offers free reference documents that are just as helpful.

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