Smartphones: Are They REALLY a Smart Idea?

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To understand the perception of professionalism surrounding smartphone use (wards/educational activities) among medical students and surgical faculty.


Smartphones are ubiquitous and their uses numerous: personal messages, patient care, emails and entertainment. It is difficult to determine which of these functions the user is engaged in at any one time during work at healthcare facilities. Students and faculty (Ob/Gyn and Surgery) are motivated to exhibit professional behavior and are evaluated on this measure. Given changes in generational norms and implications of unprofessional behavior it is important to understand how use of this technology is perceived in the workplace.


A prospective cohort study was conducted using an electronic survey and distributed to 3rd and 4th year medical students, Ob/Gyn and Surgery faculty members. Five cases were randomly presented; participants were asked to review and rate the clinician's behavior on a 5 point Likert scale.


One hundred twenty-three students (51% response) and 73 faculty (Ob/Gyn with 54% response; Surgery with 21% response) completed the survey. In 3 of 5 scenarios, students and faculty had significant differences in perception of professionalism (P<.05). Faculty were more likely to find behaviors unprofessional compared to students. The acceptability of certain behaviors was correlated with how participants reported using their smartphones.


There is a difference in perception of professional behavior surrounding smartphone use among medical students and surgical faculty. Acceptability of a behavior is also correlated to personal use of technology. Future studies should be designed to further define professional use of smartphone technology.

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