I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I am entirely too dependent on my smartphone. It has gotten to the point where I feel like I must have it near me at all times. Between being on-call for work and being the mom of a child with seizures, I feel like I need to be connected at all times.
I will confess though that I do enjoy the perks of my smartphone, like being able to check my email or play a word game while waiting for my son at the orthodontist’s office.
The one place I do not bring my smartphone is into the exam room at the office. This, I feel, is a sacred place between provider and patient.
With the addition of EMR, I already have to share this space with one electronic device, but I refuse to add another. I do not want any other distractions separating me from patients during the few moments I have to focus on their needs.
I wish my patients felt the same way. I do not begrudge any patient using her phone silently in the waiting room or even in the exam room before I come in. However, we do have a sign posted in each room asking patients to turn off their phones during exams.
Most patients do not follow this request. What follows then is a distracting progression of beeps, ringtones and buzzing. Some patients continue to text or even answer calls during their visit.
Even if the patient chooses to ignore the sounds while I’m in the room, it is distracting for me and for the patient each time an alert sounds. It tends to interrupt the flow of conversation as the patient glances at her phone, wondering who is contacting them and why.
Whenever I am the patient, I turn my phone off in the exam room. I have precious little time with my provider, as it is, to ask all the questions I have and express my needs or problems. At certain times, I believe it is just rude to leave on your phone.
I have started putting my foot down with patients who continue to take calls or text during office visits. My new practice is to inform the patient that if it isn’t a convenient time to turn off the phone, she is more than welcome to reschedule the appointment.
In today’s model of fast-paced, over-booked and demanding medicine, isn’t there enough distracting us from sitting down with patients and truly listening?
I understand that emergencies happen, but before the era of mobile phones, we all survived without being connected 24/7. Patients and providers alike deserve to take a little time away from the rest of the world to focus on who and what is in front of them.
Robyn Carlisle, MSN, CNM, WHNP, works as a full-scope midwife at University Doctors and Kennedy University Hospital in Sewell, N.J.