May 27 2020

Why Rugged Devices Are Necessary for Nurses

Designed to ensure care delivery after a shock or sanitation effort, the tough tools offer valuable protection.

Editor’s note: This content series, featured in your Insider dashboard, will be rolled out over the coming weeks to offer advice on driving collaboration between IT teams and clinical staff. (If you’re not already an Insider, sign up for free here.) The associated articles explore why nurses should be included in the decision-making process for purchasing new equipment and how to develop this relationship as part of your IT strategy.

As nurses continue to work the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic, rugged devices — which can be wiped down for repeat cleanings and survive drops, spills and other hazards of a healthcare setting — are more critical than ever.

Anything can happen during a nurse’s shift, after all.

“You always want a device that is going to maintain its worth as far as ensuring liquid doesn’t seep into it,” says Jennifer Lewis, a senior nurse manager for the nursing informatics department at AdventHealth Central Florida in Orlando. “And if it does, it’s not going to die on you really quickly. If you drop it on the floor in the process, it’s still going to work.” 

Lewis notes the toughness of the Zebra TC51 handheld mobile computers used by AdventHealth nurses. A smooth, single-body surface allows for easy decontamination across the entire device without damaging it. 

Her teams also use Spectralink 8440 wireless phone handsets that feature rubberized molding to survive drops and shocks better than a typical consumer device.

Still, a rugged designation entails much more than a protective case, Electronic Design reports

Rugged tech is built to meet military standards for withstanding extreme conditions (such as dust, water submersion and high vibration) but still perform the many necessary functions that support other care delivery tools and back-office systems.

For nurses, those functions include monitoring patients, accessing electronic health records, communicating with doctors and scanning important barcodes.

Rugged Devices for Nurses Offer Protection, Portability

With added mobility comes the risk of accidental damage. Nurses are constantly on the move, Lewis says, so carrying a ruggedized device can bring peace of mind.

To withstand drops in a hazardous work environment, rugged devices typically have a magnesium-alloy exterior (compared with the aluminum or steel body of a consumer product), according to Electronic Design. They’re also made to withstand exposure to rapid shifts in temperature.

Other protective measures may enhance the design. The Zebra TC51, for example, has a screen made of scratch- and shatterproof Corning Gorilla Glass. A higher-than-normal volume setting helps nurses hear conversations above hospital noise, and a brighter screen promotes better visibility when halogen lights are overhead. 

Larger devices may also provide some rugged capabilities. Panasonic Toughbook computers and tablets, for example, offer metal handles that make it easy to carry the devices from site to site within a hospital. As with some other rugged tools, the Toughbook’s touch screen can still be used by a person wearing medical gloves.

Toughbook ports and card slots are covered to keep water and dust out — a crucial strength for the constant decontamination needed during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. 


‘Life-Changing’ Mobile Device Supports Nursing Speed and Safety

At Truman Medical Centers in Kansas City, Mo., nurses have used Zebra TC51-HC mobile computers since 2017. Weighing in at 8.8 ounces, the devices are light yet mighty. 

“They’re rugged enough to sustain everything we need to do,” says Kassaundra McKnight-Young, a senior clinical informaticist for the organization. 

The TC51-HC’s long battery life, she adds, is critical for Truman nurses, who may be on duty for 12 to 14 hours. Hot-swappable batteries let users keep working on a patient record without losing data.

That data is invaluable at Truman. McKnight-Young recently used the device to take a picture of a patient’s EKG reading and immediately send the image to a doctor. Her colleagues use the TC51-HC to scan and inventory items such as breast milk and blood supply.

A durable, all-in-one phone, pager and scanner ensures speed and safety at the point of care. It’s no surprise, then, that switching from five different tools to one rugged device that’s ready for anything has had a big impact on Truman nursing teams.

“For me, it’s been life changing,” McKnight-Young says. “It was a great move, and I just can’t wait to see what else the future holds for these handheld devices.”

Marco VDM/Getty Images

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