Believe it or not, the history of nurse call dates back to the mid-1800s. During the Crimean War, Florence Nightingale, known as the founder of modern nursing, realized patients needed a way to ring for nurses. She remembered how the wealthy rang bells to summon servants in affluent homes, and envisioned a similar concept for nurses and patients. In a letter to an acquaintance, Nightingale wrote, “Without a system of this kind, a nurse is converted into a pair of legs for running up [and] down the stairs.” 1
This rudimentary system—a handbell located at the patient’s bedside—was adequate for the patient wards where Nightingale served. But as hospitals and healthcare facilities grew, the need for a more sophisticated system became evident.
By the 1980s, bells and buzzers were replaced with a central processor unit and a light and sound notification system. This technological advancement served hospitals well for a time—nurses were able to indicate which patients needed assistance by the dome light positioned above patient room doors. Two-way audio systems also allowed nurses to communicate directly with the patient to determine needs before rushing to bedsides.
Today, nurse call systems are more advanced than ever before. A technology that used to offer limited functionality is now a high-tech communications platform that provides invaluable reporting tools and analytics. Today’s advanced nurse call systems—referred to by Gartner as “next-generation nurse call systems”—are changing the way nurses communicate with one another and with patients. These next-generation nurse call systems provide clinicians with tools they can use to improve patient safety, drive better outcomes and enhance the patient experience—tools such as real-time data and actionable insights to identify care trends and address service recovery; alarm management tools to prevent alarm fatigue and desensitization; and care collaboration capabilities to improve rounding, nurse communication and confirm care delivery.
As the healthcare industry continues to transition to value-based, patient-centered care, a greater need emerges for improved communication, optimized clinical workflows, better data and analytics, and faster response times. With a next-generation nurse call system in place, hospitals can improve patient satisfaction and patient safety, enhance communication between clinicians and patients, and improve clinical workflows.
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Ever Yours, Florence Nightingale: Selected Letters, by Florence Nightingale and Martha Vicinus, Harvard Univ. Pr., 1990, pp. 66–68.