Saturday, June 21, 2014


I stopped to visit a friend in the hospital and had a chance to observe some clinical workflow in person.  The Nurse walked in.  She had a large brick of a phone wrapped in a plastic case pulling the side of her scrubs uncomfortably down.   She began asking questions as she prepared the medications.  She reached into her pocket and pulled out an Iphone……confusing…..then I realized it was her medication scanner.

As she was preparing to hand the medications to my friend the brick rang…..loud….very loud…. She apologized as she reached down and complained that the previous shift must have had the ringer turned up. (I was there at 8am in the morning so evidently night shift likes to carry a mobile alarm clock) She silenced it and went back to medication work.  I asked “Do you like your phone” – she held up her iphone and said “This isn’t used as a phone it’s just for meds and stuff.” I laughed and smiled “No the brick wrapped in bubble wrap hooked to your scrubs.”  She laughed and said “No Comment” as she finished putting the medication in the cup and talking to Holly she looked at me and said “That thing interrupts me when I am trying to work with a patient and it’s just rude to the patient. I don’t think it’s very practical…..I like to be fully engaged when I am with a patient”

Ouch…every technologist who has designed a decentralized workflow should wince when they hear that – this nurse is a young lady who grew up with a cell phone in her hand wanted to be what? “fully engaged with her patient”  She wanted to walk into a patient’s room and only think about what she needs to do in that moment.  She wanted to focus on getting my friends medications accurate, make sure she didn’t miss any aspect that could be a warning sign…..crazy thing….she wanted to be a nurse.

As I worked on this post – I started writing about ideas for fixing….pointing out that holding on to old technology only hurts your facility….listening to nursing because they actually do the work….blah blah blah…..but then I started think this isn’t just a hospital thing.

I was sitting in my family room – Noah (aka #4) on my lap talking about his day and my phone rang… that moment I stopped engaging with Noah and answered my phone…I tried to justify in my mind that I had tried to get ahold of this person all day and needed the information….as I hung up Noah said “Mom, can you just talk to me for a minute”….ouch…. As I began writing this blog for “Linkedin Content” to promote my industry knowledge…..I am pausing for a moment.

Our workflow design reflects our society design….the nurses response is reflecting the shift in our society to tolerate interruptions.   She recognizes that everyone would like a bit of undivided attention, especially when they are in a new environment.  She recognizes that the technology she had been given was not serving her well and was making her less effective in her job.  She recognizes that – just like Noah – her focus on my friend in that moment should be the most important part of her day.

So this post should serve two purposes – rethink how you are designing your clinical workflow and alarm design.  Clinicians are fatigued because their attention is constantly being split.  Clinicians are fatigued because we, as technologist, aren’t doing our jobs.

The second purpose – does your personal life reflect an interrupt driven society? When will that become not ok for you?

Last night…..I left my phablet in the kitchen….turned the ringer off….and enjoyed my family and some friends.  It was probably the best night I have had in months……..the ringer is still turned off.