Mobile phones and nurses: @theRCN releases guidance

The guidance, ‘Nursing staff using personal mobile phones for work purposes’ was released on 22 August 2012 and it took the recent HSJ spin on it to draw my attention to it.

In short this guidance looks at whether or not nurses should be using their own phones while at work. The answer from the RCN is no, something I wholeheartedly agree with. Why should an employee have to meet the costs of a job they are employed to do and potentially divulge a personal mobile number in the process?

A look at some of the details

It may be a little picky but I’m disappointed not to see ‘and opportunities’ include in this sentence from the very first paragraph of the guidance:

“…as with the introduction of any technological innovation, new issues [and opportunities] have been raised by mobile phone use in health and social care.

That aside I was very pleased to read throughout the guidance a tone of understanding about the potential benefit to staff and patient a mobile phone can bring.


Making up for the earlier omission of opportunities the RCN do include a useful list on page three of the benefits of mobile phones. A couple additions I would have added would be continuous professional development and communities of interest but overall it’s a good list and I’ve replicated it below:

The benfits of a mobile phone to staff and patients in health and social care

  • communication via telephone, SMS text
  • messaging and email
  • photography, for example, of patients’ wounds or skin condition
  • basic tools such as calculator and stopwatch
  • internet/intranet usage to access guidelines and other knowledge sources
  • downloadable apps designed for specific purposes
  • use of global positioning system (GPS) software for getting directions or calculating mileage, and for protection purposes by tracking the location of lone working nursing staff.
  • [Continuous professional development via access to online and app-based courses]
  • [Joining communities of interest to share knowledge and solve problems]

A comment on publishing timelines

The report was published on 22 August 2012, yet there are only two references from after 2010, both 2011 RCN reports. There are no references from 2012. In fact the large majority of the online references were accessed on 21 March 2011, nearly 18 months before publishing the report.

In the field of mobile technology 18 months is a long time.

The guidance is flagged for review in July 2014. I would have preferred to see July 2013 for this area of guidance.

Perhaps the RCN guidance needs to be even more dynamic and be reviewed every quarter to keep up with mobile technology? Is there someone within the RCN who would be willing and funded to keep abreast of the subject area all year round?


Overall, I think this is a measured and open minded piece of guidance and well worth a read for an insight into community nurses’ work.

I fear though that nurses on the ground will face a tough road to getting a work phone that is useable, secure and technically able to take full advantage of what an internet enabled phone offers.

As usual local autonomy on policies covering this area in place of a national top-down policy brings its own difficulties.