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Answer the Call

The bedside call bell is a hospital patient’s life-line to staff outside their room should they need assistance of any kind. When answered quickly, the call bell not only meets the patient’s immediate need, it also reduces anxiety, provides a sense of security, and helps maintain the overall quality of their care. Anything less than an immediate response, however, can lead to patient distress, safety concerns, and a negative patient care experience.

“When a patient is in the hospital, they usually are feeling sick, uncomfortable, anxious, and vulnerable,” says Christina Wolf, RN, clinical manager of Population Health. “They are reliant on us to help them perform simple tasks that they would normally do on their own, such as usinge the bathroom, changinge position, or grabbing a cup of water.”

Traditionally, the call bell has been the responsibility of the busy nurses and aides providing direct care on the patient floors, but help is now on the way! Lawrence General is rolling out a new initiative—Answer the Call—that will broaden the number of staff members who are trained to answer a call bell with the goal to improve response times and reduce patient falls—when they wait too long and try to get out of bed by themselves.

The Answer the Call initiative will train staff members who are regularly on the patient floors — dietary, respiratory therapy, laboratory, hospitalists—how to answer a call light and address basic patient needs. “We want to reset the expectation that the call light is just the responsibility of nurses and aides,” says Christina, who is leading the rollout effort. “It’s really everybody’s responsibility. We need to work together to be sure we are meeting the expectations of our patients. We are bringing life to our “I am the Patient Experience” culture.

During the month of November, Christina, along with her colleagues from Professional Development, will create a curriculum around answering call bells and begin to train the first group of what she calls “culture pioneers,” or staff volunteers. A group of 25-30 staff members will be trained to start, with more to follow over time. The initiative will roll out on all inpatient floors, rather than on a specific unit, and evolve over time as we learn what works.

“We want to do this in a way that feels like support for the nurses and respects how busy they are providing patient care,” says Christina. But, the initiative is really centered on the patient, she adds, and setting the expectation that every call bell gets answered immediately by the person who is closest. “The patients in this hospital belong to all of us —regardless of our role, we are all accountable for their safety, wellbeing, and care,” adds Christina. “It sends a powerful message when they see us all working together as a team, focused on their needs.”

“Answering the Call is critical for our patients and their families,” says Pracha Eamranond, MD, senior vice president of Medical Affairs and Population Health. “This is not only a patient experience issue, it also exemplifies both real and perceived safety. We as staff, particularly physicians, need to be present for our patients when they are calling for us.”

“Lawrence General has adopted guidelines for the patient experience,” says Karen Moore, RN, senior vice president of operations and chief nursing officer. “One of the guidelines is that everyone contributes to the patient experience. With everyone aligned to be responsive and focused on patient safety, wellbeing, and care it will result in a powerful experience for patients and families.”


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