1. Schaffner, Marilyn MSN, RN, CGRN, Department Editor

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I just completed my computerized mandatory training for the new year. Our organization requires every employee to complete a number of modules (that are specific to their area of work) each year. These modules include such things as updates and reviews of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) compliance, infection control, fire safety, and patient safety. I remember the days when we had to attend individual classes every year. Computer technology has made completing this competency training much easier.


Technology has also enhanced our ability to stay connected. I can sit at my desk and pull up reports of the current status of my departmental budgets, check nursing turnover, view the census of the hospital for each unit, obtain text information on any subject imaginable, and communicate with anyone around the world via e-mail. However, this increase in communication via technology does not come without challenges.


Recently I was at a meeting during which a proposal was being discussed to pilot a new wireless system offering unlimited e-mail, unlimited Web browsing, speaker phone, access to instant messaging, the ability to interface telephone and laptop computers, and the ability to roam to hundreds of countries worldwide. One of the physicians gracefully declined the opportunity to pilot the new technology. She had tried a similar technology and found she could not extricate herself from work. She had lost any previous boundary between home and work. She decided to abandon the device and is pleased with her decision.


I tried using a Palm Pilot several years ago. While impressing those around me, my work life became total confusion. I was scheduling future meetings in real time while my assistant (back at her desk) was scheduling meetings for the same date and time. It was not until we would synchronize the device at the end of the day that we found my calendar was incredibly double booked!! The time gained from having immediate access to my schedule via this piece of technology was lost rearranging my schedule. Within 2 weeks, I returned my Palm Pilot to the Information Technology department.


The price for increasing connectivity may be decreased productivity. It is estimated 11 million people are using instant messaging at work (Forster, 2004). Although instant messaging-real-time text conversation-may have its rewards, if used inappropriately it may, in fact, decrease productivity at work. Some organizations are developing policies that prohibit instant messaging in the workplace (Goldsborough, 2004).


It is easy to become distracted by all the high-tech methods at our fingertips that allow us to stay connected. As leaders, we must not become so preoccupied that we fail to recognize when face-to-face, human-to-human interaction is most appropriate. A scannable, anonymous exit interview is available for any employee who leaves my employer, the Medical University of South Carolina. The exit interview tool is being converted to an on-line version. I am questioning this; should we be conducting face-to-face exit interviews? Maybe our information would be more reliable and timely. Perhaps we might be able to retain some staff who are about to leave.


Multitasking is a result of this increased ability to connect with others via technology. Increasingly, meeting participants tote laptops or other mobile pocket personal computers and attempt to check e-mail during meetings. Have you ever been guilty of taking a telephone call while reading and answering e-mail? Both examples are disrespectful and a waste of time because it is impossible to split personal attention in such a way. Obviously, technology will continue to explode and change the way we conduct our daily business; however, it is my hope we will discriminate the need for face-to-face interaction while continuing to find the value of connectivity.




Forster, J. (2004, December 27). Instant messaging interfering in some workplaces. Charleston Post and Courier Business Review. [Context Link]


Goldsborough, R. (2004, August). Instant messaging managing risks and rewards. Retrieved December 29, 2004 from[Context Link]