In addition to causing situational blindness and distractions while on the job, as discussed by Kathleen Bartholomew in “Not So Smart: Cell Phone Use Hurts Our Patients and Profession” (Viewpoint, June), cell phones can also act as potential reservoirs for bacteria and can become vectors for infection.
Nurses are well known for cleaning stethoscopes, countertops, keyboards, and almost everything in sight. I even know coworkers who brag about changing their clothes before they walk into their house to prevent bringing germs home. However, even with nurses’ awareness of sources of infection, there is one source we overlook on a daily basis: our cell phone. Microbiologists often refer to cell phones as petri dishes of bacteria because they generate heat and dwell in the darkness of our pockets. In one 2015 study, researchers were able to culture methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Escherichia coli, and a host of other bacteria from the cell phones of study participants, which included hospital staff.1
I have become more conscious of my cell phone use at work and I encourage others to do the same. Distractions from cell phones and infections caused by the bacteria they may harbor can be detrimental to our patients’ health. Hospitals need to enforce their existing cell phone use policies and provide sanitizing wipes for cell phones. Or, nurses could simply do as Bartholomew suggests and leave their phones in a locker.
Drew Flammia, BS, RN
1. Pal S, et al Mobile phones: reservoirs for the transmission of nosocomial pathogens Adv Biomed Res 2015 4 144