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A Nurse’s Guide to Mindfulness and Mobility

8 Oct 2014 by Dianne Price

Wasn’t it just yesterday that cell phones were banned in hospitals because they could interfere with radiofrequencies in diagnostic equipment?

Today, smartphones are a staple and nurses are digital wizards. While technology can save time and steps, how does today’s nurse maintain the human connection while juggling smartphones, tablets, computerized order entry systems, electronic medical records, cloud computing, and teleconferencing?

The decidedly low-tech practice of mindfulness is emerging in nursing circles as an antidote to what might otherwise feel like a digital overdose.

It’s the first week in May and hospitals, patients, doctors and nurses across the U.S. are celebrating National Nurses Week.  If you’ve spent any amount of time in a healthcare setting you know that one week isn’t near enough. Nurses have always been at the heart and soul of healthcare. We count on them to constantly decipher, decode, double-check, console and communicate.

With the patient population growing and nurse ranks proportionately thinning, nurses need all the help they can get. A 2008 time and motion study demonstrated that nurses typically spend half their time doing paperwork. So, how will patients still get the personal attention that nurses are traditionally best positioned to give? Ironically, high-tech tools are helping expedite tasks so nurses can keep personal interaction with patients a priority. A recent survey found that 71 percent of nurses are using smartphones at work. Mobile technologies like smartphones and tablets or PDAs (personal digital assistants) can quickly collect, monitor and deliver healthcare information from nurses to physicians, to patients, and payers.

Recently, I witnessed a nurse juggling valiantly as she worked to calm a terminally ill patient, took vitals, entered notes into the bedside computerized order entry system, and answered a constantly ringing cell phone. I asked, “Is it a requirement that you always answer the phone?” Her answer was yes. It made me wonder how one person could be expected to effectively execute all of these important functions at once?

Today, there’s even technology that can “protect” you from technology. Hospitals can adopt a GPS system of sorts that silences ringtones and delays incoming calls when the nurse is at a patient’s bedside. At present, it’s a bit costly, but it won’t be long before it’s accessible and affordable. In the meantime, I suggests that nurses need to have a strong voice in which technologies to adopt, crafting policies and keeping the personal relationship with the patient at center stage.

With the new mindfulness mantra among medical professionals, here are just a few ways that nurses can strike the balance between mindfulness and mobility:

  1. Put your own oxygen mask on first, before assisting others.
    Did you know that there are ways to seek peace on the go? For about the cost of a cup of a double latte ($2.49), the Mindfulness App will send you a message to remind you to breathe and slow down. Headspace will get you started for free.
  2. Cling rabidly to the concept of patient-centered care.
    Study after study shows that patients do better when they have more attention from nurses. With technology advancing rapidly, there are often more questions than answers. When in doubt, go back to where it all begins – with the patient.
  3. Don’t nurse technology. It’s exists to help you.
    There are nearly 20,000 health and medical apps in the iTunes store, so be selective. It’s important to sort good information from misinformation. Learning new tools should be painless, not laborious. Keep what increases productivity; discard what does not. Here’s one tech-savvy observer’s take on the 25 best apps for nurses.
  4. Go with the flow.
    Don’t forget that you can have fun with technology. Research tells us that music can improve blood flow and blood pressure by stimulating the production of the “feel good” hormones – opiates and endorphins. Download this soothing playlist for nurses from Scrubs magazine. And when all else fails, get a good night’s sleep with five apps to help nurses sleep.

Even Steve Jobs, Apple founder and passionate techie, kept people at the center when he said, “Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have a faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.” Technology works best when it helps nurses do better the wonderful things they’ve always done.