It's no secret that nursing is a tough and often thankless job. Despite their high levels of passion and commitment, many of our nation's nurses suffer from burnout and job dissatisfaction. No wonder. Nurses are constantly pulled in all directions as they attend to the needs of doctors and patients alike.
One practice that drains much of their time is patient bed call light responses. What was intended to be a valuable lifeline for patients can sometimes be a stumbling block for nurses.
"The call light is often used when patients need help with basic tasks that don't necessarily require the attention of a nurse," says Quint Studer, CEO of healthcare consulting firm, Studer Group, Gulf Breeze, FL, and author of Hardwiring Excellence: Purpose, Worthwhile Work, Making a Difference.
"Understaffed nursing teams devote so much of their time responding to these unscheduled calls that it prevents them from doing other, more critical duties, which in turn leads to burnout and job dissatisfaction," he adds.
Of course, hospitals can't get rid of call lights. Nurse response to them plays a major role in how patients perceive the quality of their healthcare.
Yet Studer Group recognizes that understaffed nursing teams need a better way to anticipate the needs of their patients.
That's why Studer Group and the Alliance for Health Care Research (AHCR), a subsidiary of Studer Group, conducted the Call Light Study, the largest study ever completed to show evidence that certain nursing staff behaviors reduce call lights and allow nurses to respond more efficiently to patient requests.
"The study focuses on hourly rounding, a powerful tactic that can improve nursing and patient care excellence," says Studer. "Rounding allows nurses to gather information in a structured way. It's proactive, not reactive like call light responses. It's a great way to get a handle on patient problems before they occur. It's all about providing the best patient-driven healthcare."
The study focused on 27 units in 14 hospitals that implemented nursing rounds every 1-2 hours. One year later, a follow-up was conducted to judge the effectiveness of hourly rounding, and the results clearly show the benefits of the patient-management tool.
According to Studer Group, The study demonstrates when nurses follow recommended behaviors and actions during their hourly rounds, call lights can be reduced by as much as 38 percent. Patient satisfaction scores increased an average of 8.9 points on a 100 point score, from 79.9 to 88.8.
Hourly rounding proved successful in other areas, as well. Clinical outcomes improved, participating hospitals saw a 50 percent decrease in patient falls, and patient and employee satisfaction increased. Of the 14 hospitals that participated in the study, 13 decided to expand the practice to other units or all units of the facility.
"The great thing about hourly rounding is that it doesn't benefit only the patients," says Studer. "It allows nurses to give quality, face-to-face care to their patients and frees up their time to focus on other tasks. Naturally, being empowered to do your job and do it well greatly improves employee satisfaction, too.
"When the concept of hourly rounding is introduced to nursing staffs, they are often skeptical," he admits. "They think, 'I'm already strapped for time as it is, so how am I going to add hourly rounds to my busy schedule?'
"Well, it turned out that the nurses in the study actually had more time to attend to other tasks when rounding was implemented because patients were using their call lights less frequently."
Hourly rounding plays a major role in the patient-centered health care models that many hospitals across the country are adopting as they begin to view their patients not only as patients, but also as consumers.
Making his paradigm shift can be a daunting task for nurses. To smooth the transition, Studer Group has developed the Studer Group Patient Care Model.
This nursing model presents four tactics that lead to nursing and patient care excellence. Though each is unique, these tactics share the common goal of driving patient care to the bedside. The model includes: (a) hourly rounding, (b) individualized patient care, (c) bedside shift report, and (d) discharge phone calls. Hourly rounding is the recommended first step when implementing the Patient Care Model.
"The results of the Call Light Study and the one-year follow-up show that hourly rounding leads to a higher standard of care," says Studer. "It may not be a new high-tech drug or a ground-breaking procedure, but the study clearly shows that hourly rounding creates a more positive culture at hospitals as both patient satisfaction and employee morale improves."