Nurses’ productivity takes a hit when they become "addicted" to using social media at work, a habit that distracts them from tasks at hand, a small study suggests.
Study coauthor Asad Javed from Hazara University in Mansehra, Pakistan said nurses who choose to kill time by using social media at work have become a serious issue at hospitals and universities across that country.
This behavior causes frequent conflicts among nurses about the assignment of patient care duties, as well as arguments between nurses and patients, he added.
“One of the important reasons we conducted our research on nurses was the critical nature of their jobs, which require them to remain attentive,” Javed told Reuters Health in an email.
To assess relationships between social media use at work, distraction from job tasks and self-rated job performance, Javed’s team recruited nurses through Facebook groups last year.
Altogether, 461 nurses in 53 countries completed the anonymous survey, which included statements such as, “I lose my concentration during work when I hear the beep sound of notification on social networking site/application,” rated by the participant on a scale of 1 to 5.
The researchers found that increasing use of social media at work was associated with greater distraction and poorer job performance. However, nurses able to practice self-management could overcome the urge and focus on work, the study team reports in the Journal of Advanced Nursing.
“Nurses, like the general population, are increasingly distracted by attention to social media,” said Cynda Rushton of the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing’s Berman Institute of Bioethics in Baltimore, Maryland, who was not involved in the study.
“Nurses care for some of the most vulnerable people... When social media sites...shift their focus from their core work in ways that may harm their patients, higher standards are justified.”
In the paper, researchers warn the situation is even worse in public hospitals where nurses have unpredictable and inflexible working hours and heavy workloads.
Nurses can change their behavior if made aware of it through training sessions, displaying of posters or other awareness interventions by hospital administration, Javed noted. Tackling office culture to make it more unacceptable to use social media at work could also prove effective.
Rushton said social media policies guarding against privacy violations of patients have been widely established in the healthcare sector and are usually effective if adequate surveillance is used to enforce them.
However, sanctions are typically more stringent when employees violate patients’ privacy, rather than when they misuse social media for purposes unrelated to patient care, she said.
Javed does not advocate a complete ban on use of phones or social media by nurses. “(This) could result in negative consequences considering the myriad of benefits associated with the use of social media for healthcare professionals reported in several studies,” he said.
“We have an existing social media policy which our department put together around patient privacy,” said Deb Song, associate director of media relations at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, who wasn’t involved in the study.
“However, we actually want our staff to help promote Rush through social media when appropriate.”
Becky Sawyer, chief human resources officer at Sentara Healthcare, a health system in Virginia, said her organization had launched apps for customers and staff.
“We have policies that encourage our team members not to utilize their mobile devices for personal reasons while caring for or assisting our patients,” she said.
“At the same time, we encourage their use of social media to deliver education to team members using platforms like LinkedIn Learning, or to communicate with our team using Workplace by Facebook.”