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Hey, Get Off the Phone!!

Author: Tija Hunter, CDA, EFDA, CDIA, FADAA/Tuesday, December 2, 2014/Categories: 24/7 Articles

Each day in the United states on average 9 people die and over 1000 people are injured due to texting and driving. We have become obsessed! The fact that we get distracted while “texting” no matter what other activity we are involved in is an understatement.

​Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and they receive a text message, pick up their phone and read the message and begin texting back, totally ignoring you? You’re like “hey, weren’t you talking to me?” Sometime just look around the room you’re in and on average, over half the room will have their heads down, looking at their phones. And if you text someone and they don’t instantly text you back, you get “text rage” (sort of like road rage only safer because you’re not driving).

Somewhere in the last say 15 years we have become obsessed with our cell phones. The need for instant and constant communication is at an all-time high. We feel the need to stay connected all day, every day. We even feel the need to not just carry our cell phones in our pockets or purse. NO, we have to hold it in our hand so if it goes off, we are RIGHT THERE to get it! Yet somehow, some way, we managed to live perfectly fine without cell phones before that.

So why do we feel the need to instantly reply when we receive a text message? As if they party on the other end needs to know now? And it’s not just text messaging; people feel the need to answer their cell phones when they ring no matter where they are; at the table eating with family or in a line to place an order or check out. Some places like the United States Post Office have signs that say, “We will be happy to wait on you as soon as you are finished with your call”. Ever been working on a patient, their cell phone rings and they answer it only to tell the person on the other end, “I’ll call you back, I’m at the dentist office”, really? Can’t they just wait until they are done and then call them back? I’ve literally had my hands in someone’s mouth when they answer their cell phone (insert eye roll here), and no, I didn’t stop working!

Now, why on earth did I bring this up? Being an educator I am constantly telling the students what is “professional ” and what isn’t; how to act on the job, things that should never be said to a patient, uniforms, and many other “do’s and don’ts”. One of them that tops that list is turning that cell phone off at work. Back in the day, oh say, 10 plus years ago, if our families had an emergency, they knew to call the office phone, and that rule is still golden! You could be in the middle of a procedure and not get to your phone for over an hour or more, or what if your battery was dead? Giving family your work phone number and making sure they call it instead of your cell in a true emergency is always best.

​Let’s face it, your employer is paying for you to be at work, not only physically but mentally as well. We already know that texting distracts you not only when you drive, but in any activity….even while talking to a friend. If you’re in the middle of a debate with someone on text, are you really paying attention to what you’re doing at work? If you have to run and check your phone every few minutes to see what the other person said, are you really concentrating on what’s going on in the office?

Do you go so far as to carry your cell phone in your pocket at work, checking it every now and then? We all know working in the dental office we are splattered everyday while working on patients. If you could go into a dark room and make all that splatter glow you’d be amazed at how saturated you are with blood and saliva. Yet you carry your cell phone in your pocket? You’re a germ-a-phobe in the operatory, follow OSHA and CDC guidelines for infection control, but not so much with your phone. Is it because you don’t consider your phone to be dirty?

​Ever used a towel to open the door to a public restroom? Or flushed the toilet with your foot? Why did you do that? Because you know those things are infested with germs! Did you know your cell phone has 18x’s more harmful bacterial than either of those things? Many people use their cell phones while they’re in the restroom, so it’s no surprise that 1 in 6 have fecal matter on them! It is said that when flushing your toilet, it can spray up to 6 feet, so always close the lid. How close is your toothbrush to that toilet? You wash your hands but do you wash your cell phone? Did you know that cell phones are one of the leading causes for acne in adults? I’ve even seen parents let their babies chew on their cell phones!

So let’s see; cell phones distract us from our work, make us rude, carry harmful bacteria and may have fecal matter hidden in all those nooks and crannies. Isn’t that enough reason to NOT carry them around at work? Is it really necessary we stay glued to it? Is it fair to our employer to allow our phones to distract us from what we are getting paid to do? And is it fair to expose our phones to harmful bacteria and then take them home for our kids to play games with?

​So I’ve given you some food for thought. It’s absolutely not acceptable to carry your phone in your pocket while at work. It’s dirty, it’s rude, it’s distracting you from doing your job, a job you are getting paid to do. I think each one of us needs to take a look at how and when we use our phones. Be it a text message or phone call, I’m pretty sure it can wait.

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