Please Push the Correct Button!

A loved one recently had surgery and spent four days recovering in a local hospital. I found myself fascinated by a “poster” hanging on the wall with instructions for using the nurse call light button. It was incredibly complicated and went something like this:

  • If you are in pain, push the blue button directly below the red nurse button.
  • If you want water, push the blue button directly to the right of the red nurse button.
  • If you need housekeeping for trash or to remove dishes, push the blue button directly to the left of the red nurse button.
  • If you need to use the restroom, push the blue button directly above the red nurse button.
  • If you want a meal, please do not use your remote. Use the room telephone. (No telephone number given on the poster, mind you.)
  • For anything else, please push the red nurse button.

Imagine coming out of anesthesia and a complicated surgery, and trying to navigate this set of instructions for basic needs! But before I get too into the weeds on how complicated this process seemed – I’d like to say, “I get it.” If the patient pushes the correct button, then the patient will get exactly what he/she needs with the least amount of disruption to workflow.

If I want water, I push the water button (though it was not marked as a water button – I’d need to refer to the poster). An aide would bring me water and my nurse could go about her work without the water disruption. It’s not terribly patient friendly…but I understand what this hospital was attempting to accomplish.

So here’s the kicker:  EVERY time I visited, I assisted my elderly loved one with pushing the “CORRECT” button for what she wanted (water, pain meds, toilet, etc.). And EVERY time someone would simply respond with, “What do you need?” So even though we went through the difficult-for-her process of trying to teach her to push the correct buttons because the “poster said so,” it didn’t matter. She was still asked what it was she wanted.

What was that poster really saying to her? Do it our way – do it the way that works best for US (despite it being complicated) and if you do, we’ll reward you by still asking you what you want… I finally removed the poster and told her to just push the red nurse button anytime she wanted anything. Because SHE was the patient – and it was the easiest, least stressful thing for HER.

As the need for improved patient satisfaction scores rises, healthcare organizations may have to develop new policies as they relate to customer service and patient satisfaction; likewise, new practices may need to be implemented – practices like hourly rounding or “intentional” call buttons, for example. Be sure to take the time to partner with your nursing operations group and review your current processes for patient satisfaction against evidence-based, best-practice strategies and consider what is best for your organization and, most importantly, your patients.