Is texting and email checking in OT allowed?


Dr KK Aggarwal & Advocate Ira Gupta    04 November 2020

In an operating room, long cases usually allow anesthesiologists, nurses, etc., to access their phones. Checking email or sending texts could be detrimental to patients, as the staff need to focus on patient monitoring. Due to boredom, the staff tend to check their phones. This is a growing problem in operating rooms.

In a peer-reviewed survey of 439 medical staff, conducted by Dr. Trevor Smith, published in Perfusion, half of the technicians, who run bypass machines, reported that they texted during surgery [2011 Sep;26(5):375-80].

Around 55.6% of staff who monitor heart bypass machines accepted to having used cell phones during heart bypass surgery.

Nearly 49.2% acknowledged they had texted while in surgery.

About 21% of the perfusionists acknowledged that in the midst of cardio-pulmonary bypass surgery, they accessed their e-mail, 15.1% agreed that they used the internet and 3.1% reported that they checked/posted on social networking sites.

Personal distraction by cell phone use that negatively affected performance was acknowledged by 7.3%, while 33.7% agreed that they witnessed that another perfusionist was distracted with phone/text while on CPB.

Texting and checking email while working in the OT can be hazardous. It has led to medical errors and lawsuits.

Medical professionals are expected to multitask but distracted doctors can commit dangerous errors. Distracted doctors could be sued for medical mistakes due to in attentiveness.

Such cases need expert testimony to prove that the surgeon failed to properly care for the patient.

Hospitals employing distracted doctors could also face lawsuits under the legal theory of "respondent superior," which holds an employer liable for employee’s negligence.

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