Eye contact or Angry Birds?

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Gary Tetz
Gary Tetz
My wife's a Realtor. And no, I'm not wondering if you or anyone you know would like to buy or sell a home in Walla Walla, WA. That would be a crass and brazen misuse of this forum. Though if you happen to have a real estate need, I could definitely get a message to her. I hear she's quite good.

Anyway, what I really want to talk about is a catch phrase she brought home from a presentation by one of those real estate marketing gurus. He described the note he keeps on his desk that says, “If you can read this, you're not making any money.” He taped it there as a reminder that the way to succeed in real estate is to be out, away from the office, talking to people face-to-face, making and nurturing real connections.

With just a minor edit, a note like that could be a helpful desktop reminder in nursing home settings as well:  “If you can read this, you're not caring for somebody.” We should seek every opportunity to get away from our work stations and computers and over to the bedsides of those in our care. And now all this newfangled technology — these rolling computer carts and sleek tablets — finally makes it practical. With an obvious caveat.

In so many important ways, mobile tech has been great for our profession. Improved efficiency, accuracy and resident safety have been clear benefits of documenting at the point of care. But on the other hand, I've been in conversations with medical professionals who were glued to these devices — sometimes even as a patient — and it can be like talking to the airport ticket agent. There's a whole lot of tapping and staring at the screen, and not much eye contact or empathy. Either they're entering some very important information, or just playing Angry Birds

It's a fine line to walk, reaping the benefits of the technology without compromising the quality and warmth of our human interactions. With so much at stake with every bit of data tapped onto a glowing screen, and with someone always looking over our collective shoulders, it's easy to get cyber-trapped and miss opportunities to be truly present for the very real people we serve.

So maybe we should tape those handy signs to all our mobile devices too: “If you can read this, you're not truly connecting with somebody.”


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Things I Think

Things I Think is written by longtime industry columnist Gary Tetz, who resides in Portland, OR. Since his debut with SNALF.com at the end of a previous century, he has continued to amuse, inform and sometimes befuddle long-term care readers worldwide.