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Dome - The new connectivity

November 2010

The new connectivity

Date: November 3, 2010

A project piloting a nurse call system sets the change for better and safer patient care.


Stacey Danielczyk (left) and Sherri Jones led Nelson 8 in piloting a call system that demonstrates “how it’s going to feel” in the new clinical towers.
Stacey Danielczyk (left) and Sherri Jones led Nelson 8 in piloting a call system that demonstrates “how it’s going to feel” in the new clinical towers.

Last year, nurses and support staff on Nelson 8 agreed to pilot a sophisticated call system intended to streamline workflow and enhance patient care. The bustling surgical unit presented an ideal testing ground for the system prior to its installation throughout the Sheikh Zayed Tower and The Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children’s Center.

“We wanted to pilot the system on a busy unit with a variety of patients that would represent how it’s going to feel in the new clinical towers,” says Sherri Jones, who helps to run the pilot as coordinator of nursing programs at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.

For Stacey Danielczyk, pilot supervisor and a nurse educator on Nelson 8, the chance to design the new call system with colleagues from across Hopkins Hospital widened her horizons. “It’s very stimulating,” she says, “to see the value that can come from collaborating on future projects.”

But before the team, consisting of members from nursing, administration, clinical engineering and outside vendors, could devise a better communication system for nurses, they had to be able to communicate with one another. That’s why Tom Bradford, a project administrator in the facilities engineering department, was brought in. “He understands the technical details,” says Jones, “but he also understands how nurses think.”

Efficient patient care

In the past, nurses and clinical associates on Nelson 8 had learned to cope with the inefficiencies of their aging call system. For instance, it was routine for a bedside nurse who needed help with turning a patient to leave the room and search the floor for colleagues, or to go to the nurse’s station to plead for assistance by phone or over the intercom system.

Now, equipped with mobile phones, every nurse can directly page a colleague without leaving the patient’s room. “Finally,” Jones says, “we can give nurses a tool so they don’t feel like they have to go through five steps prior to giving their care.”

The new call system also expedites patient care in other ways. When one nurse cannot respond to a patient call, it will automatically roll over to the next designated caregiver. “Before, if a nurse was tending to a patient, other patients may have needed to wait for an extended period of time to have their call answered,” Danielczyk says.

Using the new system, Nelson 8 unit clerks at the nurse call console can easily triage hundreds of daily calls and forward them to appropriate staff, depending on the gravity of the calls. General requests, such as a call for water, can be preprogrammed into the call system along with the patient’s name and room number. As a safeguard, the hospital’s Admission, Discharge and Transfer (ADT) system, which manages patients’ records as they move through the hospital, also feeds into the electronic call system. Nurses can readily refer to the ADT feed to confirm the identity of patients who make requests for pain medication and other therapies specific to their treatment.

Better tools

The new system enables nurses to page physicians from their mobile phones so they may continue working while waiting for return calls. Mobile phones and pagers will also eliminate overhead paging, reducing noise on all clinical units. 

Staff members will be required to wear electronic badges that will continuously transmit an icon that represents their location on the unit to an overhead screen at the nurses’ station, allowing co-workers to find them more quickly. The system will help staff keep track of electronically tagged equipment, such as bladder scanners, as well.

Once nursing staffs move into the new towers, they can choose how to use the nurse call system, says Jones. With a clinical engineer and system vendors, she has met with every nurse manager whose unit is moving to discuss how to locate and use the call system on their new floors. The pilot demanded many hours of the Nelson 8 nursing staff and confounding technical problems often arose. But the hard work paid off, Danielczyk says. “We have to be open to letting technology help us do our job better; these tools can only improve the way we deliver care.”

—Stephanie Shapiro

Articles in this Issue

New Clinical Buildings

Financial Insight

Medical Education

Patient Safety

Human Resources

Innovation