Holly Pittman, a registered nurse in the TCMH medical surgical department, utilizes an iPod Touch as part of the hospital's new, quieter communication system.

Call system is too intrusive and disturbing. Need to improve system so it doesn’t disturb patients in rooms.

Noise level is off the charts because of the page intercom at the head of the bed, and nurses paged extremely loudly.

Comments like these were not uncommon on the inpatient surveys returned to Texas County Memorial Hospital following stays in the hospital. The surveys indicated that “noise level in and around rooms” was one of the top concerns based on the hundreds of surveys filled out by TCMH patients over the past three years.

Noise levels in patient rooms in the medical surgical rooms of the south and east wings of the hospital were considered by many to be very loud due to a bedside intercom system which the medical surgical unit secretary and other staff members used to page nurses, aides and other staff that were assisting patients in their rooms.

“Using the bedside paging system was the only way to communicate with each other,” explained Krista Elliott, medical surgical nurse manager.

Nurses and aides would be summoned to specific patient rooms. Physician phone calls to nurses were messaged through the paging system. Many different messages were paged through the bedside system for all patients to hear although the message might only involve one patient.

“It was loud, and it was very disturbing to our patients,” Elliott said, “and besides being loud, some patients didn’t want everyone knowing through a page that they needed assistance from a nurse.”

Today, thanks to a $7,000 grant from the Bess Spiva Timmons Foundation, the wheels were placed in motion to completely revamp the hospital’s bedside paging system.

“We love it!” Elliott said with a big smile.

The new nurse paging system is wireless. Nurses and aides are outfitted with an iPod Touch that allows them to communicate with the nurse’s station, each other and physicians using a much quieter and more private form of communication.

Hospital inpatients still use their bedside call button to communicate with the nurse’s station when they need assistance. The unit secretary at the nurse’s station then uses Google Talk, a web-based program, to communicate with the specific nurse or aide via their personal iPod.

Nurses and aides are assigned a specific iPod when their shift begins. Each iPod has a specific contact number. When the unit secretary or other staff person sends a message to the iPod, a small chiming sound lets the recipient know they have a message.

Elliott explained that various departments that communicate frequently with medical surgical staff also utilize the iPod system for communication.

“Pharmacy can send a message to a nurse to let her know that a medication for a patient is ready,” Elliott said. “There’s also less tracking down of staff at night.”

In the past, all hospital overhead and bedside paging ended at 8:30 p.m., resuming again the following morning. At night, staff had to be tracked down by foot to pass along messages.

“This new system is much more efficient and has led to greater communication between everyone,” Elliott said.

Holly Pittman, a registered nurse on the medical surgical floor, values the new nurse call system because it doesn’t bother her patients.

“I like this system because it keeps the noise level down so they can rest,” Pittman said.

The iPod Touch is also outfitted with resources that have made Pittman’s nursing job easier to do, too.

“I really enjoy having the drug manual and the lab values right here at my fingertips,” Pittman explained. “I don’t have to leave my patient’s bedside to go look something up.”

“We don’t want to confuse our patients and make them think that our staff is talking on their cell phone or texting while they are working,” said Wes Murray, chief executive officer at TCMH. “We hope our patients and their family members recognize the iPod Touch for what it is – a better way to provide patient care.”

TCMH began implementing the new nurse call system in February, so it’s too early to tell how the system will affect the survey questions regarding noise level in and around rooms. However, hospital staff is confident that the scores will be improved.

“Overall, the noise level is way down,” Elliott said, explaining that she’s able to keep the door to her office on the medical surgical floor open more often because the floor is much quieter.

“Paging has become so rare, it’s startling if you do hear a page,” Elliott explained.

Bedside pages are still being used to convey urgent or emergency messages, but those messages are very infrequent.

The wireless nurse call system was purchased with the $grant from the Timmons Foundation, and the TCMH Healthcare Foundation donated the additional $8,000 in funds needed to complete the purchase. TCMH also purchased a $14,000 wireless router to assist in controlling wireless access points and to improve the wireless coverage system in the hospital.

The system can be used in the new medical surgical wing when the hospital’s expansion is complete.

The Timmons Foundation is private family foundation of the descendents of Bess Spiva Timmons. The late Dr. Joe L. Spears, a long-time family practice physician from the Cabool area, is a past president of the Timmons Foundation Board.

Tim Spears, son of Dr. Joe L. Spears, assisted in obtaining the funding for TCMH through his family’s foundation.

“We are impressed with the efforts made by TCMH in continuing to seek improvement for the facility and patient care,” Spears said.

“This wireless call system replaces an antiquated paging system with a flexible communication tool that will improve the delivery of medical care and provide better communication for staff, patients and their loved ones,” Spears explained, adding that the new communication system “will quickly provide dividends of quieter patient care areas and better access to timely information.”

Jay Gentry, president of the healthcare foundation, has partnered with the Timmons Foundation to purchase other items for the hospital.

“We are very grateful to the Timmons Foundation for again recognizing TCMH with their donation,” Gentry said. “They continue to enhance patient care in our county hospital.”

The TCMH Healthcare Foundation is a non-profit organization with a mission to ensure the quality of healthcare services for children, women and men at TCMH.

“The healthcare foundation board was very supportive of working with the Timmons Foundation to fully fund this important technology for our hospital and patients,” Gentry said.

For more information about donor programs at TCMH, contact Gentry at 417-967-1377 or 866-967-3311, ext. 377.



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