Does Tracking Your Nurses Make Sense?


Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) have been increasingly adopted by hospitals over the past couple of decades. However, widespread adoption began to gain traction around the early to mid-2000s. Since then, RTLS technology has evolved significantly, offering hospitals the capability to efficiently track assets. Some manufacturers pitched hospitals on the idea of using RTLS to track their employees. While tracking nurses with RTLS may seem like a good idea, if you ask nurses how they feel about it, you might think otherwise. 

What are the unintended consequences of tracking nurses? 

  1. Decreased Morale:
    Constant monitoring can make employees feel like they’re not trusted or that their employer is invading their privacy. This can lead to decreased engagement, job satisfaction, and motivation.
  2. Increased Stress:
    Knowing that their every move is being tracked can increase stress levels among employees, leading to burnout and decreased well-being.
  3. Resentment and Distrust:
    Employees may feel resentful or distrustful towards management if they perceive tracking as a lack of trust in their abilities or as a means of exerting control over them.
  4. Creativity and Innovation Suppression:
    Excessive monitoring can stifle creativity and innovation as employees may be less likely to take risks or think outside the box if they feel constantly scrutinized.
  5. Micromanagement:
    Tracking can inadvertently encourage micromanagement behaviors as managers may feel compelled to control the workflow, rather than trusting nurses to manage their own work.
  6. Unintended Consequences of Metrics:
    Relying solely on tracked metrics to evaluate performance can lead to unintended consequences, such as nurses gaming the system to meet targets without actually improving efficiency or the quality of care.
  7. Legal and Ethical Concerns:
    Implementing tracking systems without proper consideration for privacy laws and ethical implications can expose organizations to legal risks and damage their reputation.
  8. Attrition and Turnover:
    Nurses who feel excessively monitored or undervalued may seek employment elsewhere, leading to increased turnover rates and the associated costs of hiring and training new nurses.
  9. Loss of Trust and Communication:
    Excessive tracking can erode trust between management and nurse and hinder open communication within the organization, as nurses may be reluctant to voice concerns or provide feedback.

Are you implementing RTLS to protect me or track me? 

While implementing RTLS systems in hospitals may initially seem like a beneficial idea for enhancing safety and security, it’s important to acknowledge the strong reluctance among nurses towards being tracked.

Despite the intention of providing them with a tool to address workplace violence, the majority of nurses express strong opposition to the idea of being monitored. In fact, many nurses indicate that they would consider leaving their jobs if their organization implemented a tracking device. This resistance highlights the complex balance between safety measures and employee autonomy, underscoring the need for hospitals to carefully consider the concerns and preferences of their staff when implementing new technology.

Ensuring the safety of nurses is paramount, and technology undoubtedly plays a crucial role in achieving this goal. However, equating safety with constant surveillance and tracking every move crosses a line, evoking a disturbing “Big Brother” scenario.

While products utilizing Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) were originally designed for tracking assets or cattle, applying such technology to monitor human beings is not only ethically questionable but also fundamentally inhumane.

“I hate being tracked. I'm not a dog, I'm a nurse.”

Don’t believe me? Check out these comments on social media:  

“I hate being tracked. I’m not a dog, I’m a nurse.” This sentiment rings loud and clear, echoing the concerns of many nurses who feel their autonomy is under threat.

Diving into more of the comments section of such videos reveals a chorus of voices echoing similar sentiments. One nurse put it bluntly: “Nursing is about trust and compassion, not surveillance and suspicion.” It’s not about resisting accountability; it’s about demanding respect and dignity in the workplace.

But why the aversion to tracking systems? It’s not about shunning technology; it’s about upholding the values that define nursing. As another TikToker pointed out, “We dedicate our lives to caring for others, but that doesn’t mean our privacy should be invaded without consent.”

The crux of the issue lies in finding a balance between accountability and respect for nurses’ autonomy. It’s not an easy feat, but it’s essential for fostering a culture of trust and empowerment in healthcare.

So, what's the solution?

It starts with listening to nurses and involving them in decision-making processes. As one commenter wisely put it, “Nurses are partners in care, not just cogs in a machine.” 

In the end, the debate over nurse tracking isn’t just about technology—it’s about values. By honoring the principles of respect, dignity, and integrity, we can build a healthcare system that truly values the contributions of nurses and puts patient care at the forefront.

Ultimately, the decision of whether to track employees hinges on the unique context of your organization, the intricacies of the work involved, and the desired organizational culture. Evaluating the potential benefits against the associated risks is crucial. However, it’s equally vital to use technology in a manner that upholds employees’ rights and preserves trust within the organization.