How long does it take your nurses to respond when a patient pushes the nurse call light? Two minutes? Four minutes? Longer?
If you don’t know the answer, you should, because it influences everything from health outcomes to patient satisfaction to financial results.
Patients use the nurse call light for various reasons, but as you can see in this bar chart from the American Journal of Nursing (AJN), the top three calls are for bathroom assistance, IV problems or alarms, and accidental calls that often involve pushing the call button while turning over in bed or trying to turn the TV channel. While none of these involve life-threatening scenarios, your nurses’ response to them has a major impact.
Consider a call for bathroom assistance. If a nurse doesn’t get to the patient’s room within a couple of minutes, will the patient wait or try to get up from bed on their own? If they get out of bed, in an unfamiliar place and perhaps while taking pain medication, the danger of a fall is significant.
At one hospital, I heard about a patient breaking her hip in a fall while trying to get to the bathroom. In addition to the suffering of the patient and her negative impression of the care she received, the hospital took a financial loss from the cost of the patient’s resulting surgery and the increased length of her stay.
The AJN study found that each patient averages 4.59 nurse calls per day. It’s simple arithmetic to multiply your number of patients by the number of calls per day to arrive at the potential for such negative consequences.
So what are you doing to make sure your nurses respond to calls in a timely manner? In a typical scenario, when a patient pushes the nurse call light, an alert goes to the unit coordinator, who responds by asking the patient what they need, then tracks down that patient’s nurse to relay the information. Depending on the communication system, that could mean using an overhead paging system, making a phone call that may or may not be answered, or using a one-way communication device. The nurse then needs to respond to the unit coordinator to find out which patient is calling and what their needs are. If the nurse is busy, the unit coordinator needs to locate another nurse or nurse technician using the same process.
With Voalte One, when a patient pushes the nurse call light, an alert goes directly to the nurse, who can proceed to the patient’s room or send a text to a technician asking him or her to go to the room to assist the patient.
When a nurse responds to a call promptly, the patient not only receives the best possible care but also feels well cared-for. When delays can have such a high price, a couple minutes makes a difference.
Source: Effects of Nursing Rounds on Patients’ Call Light Use, Satisfaction, and Safety, AJN, September 2006, Vol. 106, No. 9. By Christine M. Meade, Ph.D., Amy L. Bursell, Ph.D., Lyn Ketelsen, MBA, R.N.