A new study suggests nurses’ performance is affected by social media addiction

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Addiction to social networking sites is affecting nurses’ performance and their ability to concentrate on their work, according to a new study, published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing. The research suggests addiction to social networking sites is “becoming commonplace” among nurses and this risks damaging patient care.

The findings, in the paper “Evaluating the effects of social networking sites addiction, task distraction, and self‐management on nurses' performance” are based on analysis of data gathered via an online survey shared through Facebook groups for nurses. In all, 461 nurses from 53 different countries completed the questionnaire which asked them about their use of social networking sites, how well they were able to focus on their work, and to rate aspects of their performance such as whether they were always able to complete their duties.

According to the researchers, the advent of smartphones means addiction to social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is a growing problem among the general population. “People are using social networking sites at their home, at work and even while travelling and life without these applications has become almost impossible for many,” the paper said.

However, the issue had the potential to “have a more destructive effect” on “live-saving jobs” like nursing where employees were responsible for the welfare of others and must be poised to respond to emergencies , researchers argued.

Nurses were the “heart and soul of any healthcare system” and had a key role in supporting the physical recovery of patients and when it came to providing emotional support, the paper said. But they faced many challenges included shortages of staff, long shifts, low pay and “job hazards” that could affect their performance.

The researchers suggested social media, which can be accessed from anywhere at any time, was yet another factor to throw into the mix. “Like other segments of society, the trend has also been observed among nurses who are increasingly wasting their time and energy on social networking sites instead of performing their duties,” the authors said. “This has adversely affected their performance which is evident from the results of this research.”

The team of researchers found addiction to social media was linked to worse performance and a greater likelihood of nurses being distracted on the job. However, they also found nurses could successfully use “self-management” skills to limit social media use and focus on their work. According to the paper, “self-management” keeps employees “focused on their task” and involves “tracking one’s behaviour while working”.

The researchers said their findings had important implications for nurses and hospital managers, who should consider limiting nurses’ use of social media at work. Managers should also devise “self-management courses” for nursing staff to help reduce the harmful impact of factors like social media addiction on performance.

One of the key findings was that being distracted while trying to complete a task led to things being done less well. “Management should provide nurses with an environment where there is no distraction like mobile ringtones and [social media] applications’ beeps so they can perform their duties more effectively,” the authors said.