Two weeks back, I had a great opportunity to shadow an RN at a prominent hospital in the San Francisco Bay Area. We had set up the meeting originally as a short, informal sync up, but she found some extra time in her schedule.
She invited me to “really see” what it was like for one chaotic hour of her shift to put things in perspective. She had been with the hospital for about seven years and on this particular ICU step-down for three. The unit held 18 beds that were generally occupied during the afternoon shift. The centralized nurses’ station seemed to be the “hub of the unit.” I laced up my sneakers, and away we went!
Unfortunately, I wasn’t ready for the chaos that ensued. Right off the bat, three nurse calls went off for her three patients. We checked with the Head Unit Coordinator (HUC), and she dispatched us to three different rooms to respond to three different requests.
As soon as we ran to handle those calls, we heard an overhead page calling the nurse back to the nurses’ station to speak to a physician on the landline. By the time we arrived, the physician had to run but said to call him back. We tried three times, but no luck. It was now time to check vitals for a patient who was showing some troubling signs. During the vitals check, we heard the overhead page again.
This time, the Pharmacy was double-checking on a medication. We had a short conversation, then rushed back to the bedside. I was starting to see how flustered my clinical counterpart had become over the last 60 minutes. We had walked well over a mile in that brief period, and my feet were on fire.
Finally, we had a few minutes to sit down and debrief from the last hour. Her challenges revolved around having to run all communications through the nurse’s station. Not only that, but many nurses were resorting to using their personal smartphones to stay in contact with other clinicians via texting. She did not partake in that practice but could definitely see the benefit of being able to have a direct conversation without running up and down the hallways.
With this in mind, I shared how a unit using Voalte might operate. Having direct access to anyone in the directory and building your own customized Favorites list seemed like a dream to her. In her mind, contacting a physician was a 7- to 10-step process, depending on the day, and required the use of an intermediary. Every action required her to leave the bedside and go on a “manhunt,” as she put it, for the information she needed.
I explained how Voalte could cut down on these steps and immediately give her more time at the bedside. The presence-based directory shows at a glance who is available and who is busy. With one tap, she can send a text requesting help from another nurse or aide. And prioritized alarms can come directly to her phone with details of what her patient needs. She quickly thought of every other nurse, on every other shift, in every unit of the hospital, and was baffled why this alternative wasn’t in every hospital in the United States. With input from dedicated clinicians like her, it soon could be!