The absurd trend occurring while you're under the knife

“An elderly patient was undergoing cardiac surgery. At the conclusion of the operation, the patient arrested and CPR was commenced, including internal cardiac compressions. A medical student filmed the resuscitation on her iPhone, and posted the footage on Facebook. Although the patient was not identifiable, the student tagged the name of the hospital in her status, ‘Guess what happened at work today?'”

Mobile phones. In operating theatres.

It’s probably not something you’ve ever contemplated. We certainly hadn’t until we read this article, which talks about the increasing concerns that doctors are being distracted by having their phones alongside them in surgery.

There are numerous examples of inappropriate use of mobile phones, including the doctor at the endoscopy clinic who reportedly used a phone to snap pictures of comedian Joan Rivers during an operation. “The surgery, a throat procedure, went awry — an outcome the investigation didn’t directly link to the doctor’s alleged phone use — and ended up cutting off Rivers’ oxygen supply.”

The comedian died on the table.

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“It’s very important that the surgical teams be concentrating on the patient during the surgical event,” said Ramona Conner, editor-in-chief of the practice guidelines for the Association of Perioperative Nurses.

Well, that seems like a no-brainer to us. Surely this doesn’t happen in Australia. Or does it?

The example at the beginning of this post comes from an AMA guide for doctors and medical students on taking clinical photos with their personal mobile phones. For the record, the story is given as an example of what not to do, and the incident was reported and the student dealt with.

But it shows that, yes, doctors (and medical students) are carrying mobile phones while at work. And, chances are they’re using them for work purposes as much as personal reasons. Mobiles are far superior to pagers in getting hold of doctors, and snapping a photo in order to get a quick second opinion from a colleague can save precious time. there’s even a “Doctors’ Instagram” called Figure 1 where medical professionals can share and compare images of rashes, lesion and other stomach-turning things.

In recent years, the theory that mobile phones interfere with equipment has largely been debunked so there is no technical reason doctors couldn’t take phones into the surgery with them. Some may listen to music while operating. Some may check Facebook or buy a new bike seat from eBay.

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For this reason, Bob Wachter, a professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco and an expert in patient safety thinks operating rooms and other clinical stations are no places for mobile phones, regardless of whether they’re used professionally or privately.

“It’s not that different from texting and driving,” he said. “There are supposed to be no distractions.”

Have you ever experienced a doctor using his or her mobile phone when they shouldn’t be? Do you think phones should be allowed in the operating room?