A 2014 study revealed that 78.1% of nurses are using cell phones and other personal communication devices while working, excluding meal times and breaks. “Nurses reported regularly sending personal emails and text messages, reading news, checking/posting on social networking sites, shopping, and playing games while working.”

Certainly, mobile phones represent a new temptation to all members of society. Plenty of people have trouble putting down their phones even long enough to drive their cars into work, let alone putting them down long enough to get through an entire work day. 

Unfortunately, patient health and safety is on the line every time you go into work. Mobile phone use can cause deadly distractions that can in turn put you in a position whereupon you’ll have to defend your license.

Know your workplace policy.

Your workplace policy can have a big impact on whether mobile phone use can come back to cause a problem. If your workplace specifically forbids this kind of conduct then grounds for termination exist. Your employer may then issue a complaint to the Tennessee Board of Nursing, which maintains the right to discipline nurses for a wide variety of behaviors.

The board is not likely to be sympathetic, despite the widespread use of smartphones on the job. 

“Because the use of a smartphone for personal reasons such as texting at work can cause a risk to patient safety, the board may determine discipline is necessary…The board might also see her behavior as unprofessional conduct likely to deceive, defraud, or harm the public. Because you are a licensed professional, you have an obligation to be professional at all times, whether or not you are practicing nursing.”Nurse.com

Remember you’re in a profession where even following a supervisor’s instructions can cause ethical dilemmas capable of generating disciplinary action on the part of the nursing board, if those instructions put patients in danger.

Understand the potential for secondary effects.

While you may not be directly disciplined for mobile phone use, it is possible that the distraction incurred could cause you to take a negligent or incorrect action on the job that prevents you from serving your patients appropriately. The practice of nursing is already full of daily moral dilemmas and decisions which can “trip up” nurses who are already fully alert and on-point.

For example, it is a violation of the standards of nursing practice to “fail to assess and evaluate client status, or to provide nursing intervention as necessary.”

If answering an email or sending a text causes you to respond too slowly to a patient’s distress or needs, you may in fact be failing to offer care in alignment with the standards of nursing practice.

You are also prohibited from “practicing nursing while impaired by any mental, physical, or emotional condition.” Getting into a protracted text war with your ex can certainly cause a mental and emotional condition which might impair you in your practice. Even being distracted by a game or a conversation can be detrimental. Thinking before acting is a vital part of the job.

Caught texting at work? Get representation.

If you have used your mobile phone, but it hasn’t caused you trouble yet, stop immediately. Lock it into your locker or car dashboard while you’re at work if you can’t resist the temptation, and instruct family members to call your workplace directly and ask for you if there is an emergency.

If you are already under investigation due to a cell phone related violation, get representation from an attorney right away. The impact of disciplinary action on your life, finances, and career can’t be overstated.

See also:

When Does Following an Employer’s Instructions Threaten a Nursing License? 

Understanding Tennessee’s Apology Laws

How Can a Nurse or Medical Staff Protect Against Fraud Charges?