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Is texting and email checking in OT allowed?

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Dr KK Aggarwal and Ms Ira Gupta    21 June 2018

In operating room, long cases allow anesthesiologists, circulating nurses, as well as perfusionists to access their cell phones. Checking email, sending texts, and surfing the net, can be potential hazards to patients, when personnel need to be focused on patient monitoring. Boredom drives staff to check their phones and messaging devices. This is a growing problem in operating rooms.

Half of technicians, who run bypass machines, text during surgery, according to peer-reviewed survey of 439 medical staff by Dr. Trevor Smith published in Perfusion 2011 Sep;26(5):375-80.

  1. 55.6% of staff who monitor heart bypass machines acknowledged to researchers that they had used their cell phones during heart bypass surgery.
  2. 49.2% said they had texted while in surgery.
  3. Perfusionists reported that, while in the middle of cardio-pulmonary bypass surgery, they had accessed e-mail (21%), used the internet (15.1%) and checked/posted on social networking sites (3.1%) during the surgery.
  4. Personal distraction by cell phone use that negatively affected performance was admitted by 7.3%, whereas witnessing another perfusionist distracted with phone/text while on CPB was acknowledged by 33.7% of respondents.

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

Medical professionals are expected to multitask but distracted doctors can lead to dangerous errors. Distracted doctors could be sued for medical mistakes caused by inattentiveness.

Such cases usually require expert testimony to prove the surgeon failed to properly care for the patient.

Hospitals that employ distracted doctors could also face lawsuits under the legal theory of "respondent superior," which holds an employer liable for employees negligence.

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