How To Improve Staff Communication With Wireless Nurse Call Systems


Today’s healthcare system comes with additional demands on patient satisfaction, patient safety, and service delivery. Communication becomes an essential tool for meeting these needs.

Wireless nurse call systems have evolved over the year into what the communication systems that hospitals rely on today.

Nurse call systems consist of various elements that support staff-patient and staff-staff communication.

Staff-staff communication is less highlighted when talking about nurse call systems, but it is just as important as communication from a patient to a caregiver. Some of the reasons why you should improve staff communication include:

  • To reduce medical errors due to miscommunication or misunderstandings
  • To improve patient safety
  • To improve staff morale
  • Increased employee productivity

Understanding how you can improve communication starts with understanding how your healthcare staff interacts with nurse call systems.

How Staff Use Nurse Call Systems

Nurse call systems are essential for staff communication. Different nurse call systems come with unique components that allow staff-staff communication. These features may include:

  • The code blue component found in nurse call systems communicates that a patient needs immediate assistance. When a code blue button is activated, alarms go off inside, outside the room, and at the nurse station to call for all the staff responsible for handling code blue alerts.
  • Some nurse call systems have nurse locator systems, which help identify the location of staff. This system feature is critical during emergencies as staff can be located easily.
  • Desk consoles allow staff to relay patient requests to the right caregivers
  • Mass notification systems distribute information to many caregivers at the same time, for example during an emergency.
  • Nurse call systems with a nurse-rounding program schedule regular rounds to patient rooms. The number of patient requests decreases, leaving room for easier handling of emergencies with nurses constantly checking up on patients during rounds.

Healthcare staff uses nurse call systems to gather more information about a call from a patient. The employee at the staff console receives a call from patients; they can request additional information about the patient’s request and then transfer this information to the responding nurse.

1. Assess the Current State of Communication

The best improvements begin with an assessment of the current communication status in your organization. If you already have a nurse call system installed, identify how efficient the system is at facilitating communication. This assessment helps you identify the common communication barriers affecting your staff. Some of these barriers include:

  • Unclear instructions over the phone
  • Misinterpretation of information
  • Lack of critical information
  • Technology staff does not understand

2. Engage Your Staff in the Buying Decision

Implementing new nurse call systems within your organization means a change in how your staff interacts with each other and patients. Without input from your staff, you are more likely to face challenges in implementing a nurse call system, resulting in poor communication.

When selecting the nurse call system, identify key members who can provide insights into the features your institution requires. The needs of each facility vary depending on the services offered. For instance, a hospital has different communication needs from an assisted living facility.

Talk to the nursing staff, IT, and medical engineering staff, for instance, to help you choose a system that your staff is willing to use. Staff involvement in the buying decision translates into effective communication later.

3. Train Your Staff

When you introduce new technology into your healthcare facility, the first step you should take is to educate your staff on how the system works. Without proper training, your employees are more likely to forego using the call system for other communication systems they understand.

Training your staff introduces your staff to the new communications technology in the facility. Your staff learns important information to help them leverage the nurse call systems.

Most vendors or suppliers offer initial training depending on the negotiations and could support your staff during the early stages after installing a new system. However, this training might not be sufficient, as new gaps could emerge after the supplier/vendor training is complete.

Therefore, you must monitor the use of these systems and the challenges your staff experiences while using the new nurse call system. Once you identify these challenges, you can provide supplemental training to help them leverage the communication capabilities of the system to the maximum.

4. Make Communication Part of your Facility’s Culture

Installing a nurse call system is a step towards improving staff communication within a healthcare facility, but the success of this system depends on the organization’s culture.

Does your facility have a communication culture? If not, then you can start building this culture by educating your staff on the importance of communication and creating opportunities for communication.

Here are some steps to developing a communication culture within your facility:

  • Assess the current state of communication within the facility, identify opportunities for improvement
  • Eliminate one-way communication by providing room for feedback
  • Clarify communication expectations; for instance, if a nurse cannot respond to a patient’s request, they should have clear instructions on what to do next.
  • Avoid overloading your staff with unnecessary information
  • Conduct regular monitoring to determine how well staff are using nurse call systems

5. Leverage Technology

Pagers have had their role in the healthcare industry, and while you do not have to replace them, you can integrate smartphone use to allow nurses to receive alerts on their phones. Since most people have their phones on them often, you are likely to reach them in case of emergencies.

Using smartphones, however, should not come at the expense of HIPAA compliance. Ensure that your staff uses the right tools to communicate and avoid using sensitive patient information.

Enforce a policy of using HIPAA compliant texting apps to allow caregivers in your facility to share instructions, information, or files securely without compromising patient data or violating HIPAA requirements.

6. Provide Room for Face to Face Communication

While technology plays an important part in meeting the needs of patients, you should provide your healthcare staff with room for face-to-face communication. Hold regular meetings to determine the challenges your employees are facing when using nurse call systems, and the possible solutions they can create.

Take advantage of these meetings to review data from your nurse call systems including data on patient response times. Ensure that you provide positive feedback for those areas that employees are using the system to improve patient care.

By engaging employees in face-to-face conversations, they can air their grievances with the current system. You can use this feedback to improve your nurse call system and enhance staff morale at the same time.

Final Word

Miscommunication or delays in communication can result in costly mistakes including negative patient outcomes. Nurse call systems play a critical role in providing patients with a means to communicate their needs to caregivers as they arise. These systems also provide a communication channel for staff to pass information to each other. Training your staff and providing the right environment to maximize the use of nurse call systems results in improved patient and employee satisfaction.