Residents Overusing Your Nurse Call Button? Try These Tips

If you work in residential care, you know stress. You know what it’s like to deal with many demands at once. Your facility’s nurse call system is a reminder that resident needs should always come first. Unfortunately, not all residents limit their call button usage to when they truly need assistance. This is a problem because overuse can slow down facility operations.

For those on the front lines, answering continuous calls can lead to burnout. In addition to being terrible for the nurses who experience it, burnout can cause inefficiency and poor resident satisfaction. If you manage a facility, you need to be aware of these consequences.

But what can you do to make things better? There are residents in every facility who use nurse call buttons inappropriately. It may seem like accepting this behaviour is your only option. We don’t believe this is true. Of course, staff members should be attentive to all residents. But this shouldn’t mean running back and forth to deal with a series of never-ending distractions.

Luckily, there are actions that nurses and facility managers can take to tackle call button overuse. Read on to learn more.

Set Patient Expectations

The importance of communication when a resident is first admitted cannot be overstated. But too often, facilities focus almost exclusively on communication between family members and staff.

In the beginning, caregivers may be more concerned with reassuring new residents than providing them with straightforward information. But remember, a big part of being comfortable in a new environment is understanding what’s expected of you.

For many residents, having round-the-clock access to a caregiver is an unfamiliar experience. If you’re a manager, remind nurses to explain the purpose of the call system to new residents. Providing loose guidelines for appropriate usage can be especially helpful.

Sometimes, explaining how overuse makes life more difficult for others is enough to encourage residents to modify their own behaviour. And for those with mild cognitive impairments, frequent, gentle reminders can also go a long way.

Talk to Heavy Users

Investigating the motivations behind call system misuse is a step towards changing it. In many cases, asking a resident the right questions can help clarify puzzling behaviours.

Residents who can’t clearly communicate underlying issues may overuse nurse call buttons. Consider the dementia sufferer who has a urinary tract infection. This individual may have a lot of trouble expressing their discomfort.

Finding root causes makes modifying behaviour simpler and more effective. It can also turn up information that can improve resident care and well-being. This process may work best when members of your interdisciplinary team are involved. In some cases, the feelings that give rise to call bell overuse may be shameful to a resident. Of course, in care facilities and community homes, loneliness and fear aren’t uncommon.

When empathetic exchanges with nurses aren’t enough, counsellors may help residents understand and cope with their feelings. Encouraging family involvement can also reduce a resident’s reliance on nurse call buttons.

Evaluate Your Nurse Call System

When it comes to dealing with calls efficiently, prioritization is key. But prioritizing can be difficult when the nurse call system is misused. Staff members can’t simply ignore a call, even when experience suggests it probably isn’t urgent. But do you really want nurses walking to the opposite end of a facility to hand a television remote to a resident? It goes without saying that this isn’t a great use of time.

Knowing whether a call requires immediate attention allows staff members to make informed decisions about how they respond. If giving nurses more control could benefit your facility, you might want to consider a call system that does just that.

Look for systems that enable instant communication with residents who call for assistance. These capabilities allow staff to assess situations occurring in every part of your facility. This type of communication is also useful in combatting resident loneliness. Sometimes, a reassuring response is enough to comfort those who are trying to establish contact.

If you’re rethinking your call system, there are a few important questions to consider. What type of devices will be most convenient for nurses and residents to use? Is a video component necessary? The answers will depend on your mix of residents and your team’s preferences.

Build Trust

Do some of your residents become agitated during shift changes? Do nurses report a sudden flurry of calls during this time? In some cases, telltale sounds echoing in the hallways can be enough to provoke anxiety. This happens when the comfort of the previous hours is disrupted. A resident may begin to wonder whether their needs will be forgotten. Depending on their condition, they may become confused.

In these situations, calling for help – continuously, in some cases – may be instinctive. It can also indicate a lapse in trust.

Think about it. A person who trusts caregivers completely feels secure in the knowledge that their needs will be met. Often, these lapses have little to do with the quality of care a resident receives. Factors such as cognitive impairment and feelings of depression may play a role.

Building and strengthening trust is critical, and little gestures can go a long way. Encourage nurses to speak reassuringly to residents who are likely to become anxious. For example, reminders at shift change about what’s happening and what it means for the resident may reduce agitation. Greater tranquillity in your facility will likely mean fewer calls during times of increased activity.

Finding a Solution

In residential care, the overuse of nurse call systems can be a huge source of staff frustration. Over time, continuous, unnecessary calls can chip away at the efficiency of your facility.

Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix. Ensuring nurses have all of the information they need to respond efficiently can make a huge difference. This is where finding the right nurse call solution can help.

But increasing the prioritization capabilities of nurses won’t solve this problem on its own. Ultimately, working towards a solution means looking at the world – and your facility – from your residents’ points of view.

Feature Image: Ted Van Pelt

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