Using the Computer at Work for Personal Use

April 29, 2009

Nurses are almost equally split in their opinion of whether or not this is an acceptable practice.

"This is one topic that has bothered me for awhile despite the fact that we now live in a techno-oriented environment," wrote one nurse in response to the Medscape blog, "Should Personal Internet Use be Banned During Nursing Shifts?" This blogger went on to say that in her workplace, she's seeing colleagues searching the internet and replying to emails. She ended her post by writing, "Should you be visiting Nordstrom's rather than the patient in room 3 during your shift?"

Another nurse wrote that for years, only managers at her hospital had internet access. "But then we applied for Magnet status and one Magnet requirement is that all RNs have internet access. Ha ha. Then they had to do it."

There are differing opinions about personal computer use during work hours. In a Medscape online poll of 555 nurses, 45% responded that personal internet use should be banned while 37% felt it should be allowed. Other respondents (18%) had mixed feelings.

Nurses write about personal computer use from different perspectives. One nurse described how she visited her mother, who was hospitalized in the CCU, and found the unit clerk playing computer games. She wrote, "I believe firmly that there is a time and place for everything and using the computer for personal use should be restricted to the privacy of one's home or the public library."

One nurse was quite blunt and simply wrote, "If you are paid to work, that's what you should be doing." And another wrote, "Anyone at work in nursing using the internet for personal use should be fired immediately."

Conversely, other nurses feel differently. One wrote, "I really don't see a problem with internet use at work as long as the patients' needs are being met." Another nurse wrote that internet access is needed "as a resource for medical information, such as new and rare diseases, procedures that we deal with on occasion, and medications that are new or that we want to know more about."

One hospital terminated internet access after noting a decrease in productivity. The nurse wrote, "Now there are more nurses texting. And in order to text, one must walk around to find good reception, and whilst one is doing that, how about walking out for a smoke break? And there I am, the non-smoking, non-texter, non-internet abuser, covering another nurse's patients so she can 'get some air' and 'make a call.'"

My guess from that last post is that personal internet use is a global issue. And from the sound of things, banning internet use may have unintended consequences.

This is one topic that has bothered me for awhile despite the fact that we now live in a techno-oriented environment. Do you do your online shopping while at work? Do you check and send personal emails? How about checking Nasdaq stock quotes? Well, many employees must have answered yes to these questions. An article on reported on the results of a survey conducted by According to the survey, 25% of employees use the Internet for personal use during office hours for at least ten minutes each day. Thirteen percent of workers use the Internet for at least 2 hours per day. Now, I don't know what occurs in your workplace, but more often than not, I see my colleagues at night spend hours surfing the Net, scanning Facebook, and replying to e-mails.

While I am in a room hanging new IVs, changing IV tubing, resupplying the room (with all the things that you don't seem to have when you need them in a hurry..! ), giving a back massage, or simply charting, colleagues spend time interacting with friends from Bali, China, the UK and who knows from where else (Iceland?). I have even seen staff buying vacation airline tickets. How should we be spending our time during work hours? Are we there for patients or ....? Should personal Internet use be monitored/banned during nursing work hours?

My position on Internet use is that it may be okay to use if you are on your dinner break or if ALL your work has been completed. What's your position on this topic? Should you be visiting Nordstrom's rather than the patient in Room 3 during your shift?