Nurses in hospital units with a higher proportion of short-term patients take longer to respond to patient call lights

Research Activities, November 2011

Hospitalized patients typically use call lights to request pain medication, personal assistance, or bathroom assistance. Delays in responding to these calls can result in patient discomfort or even falls. A new study found that nurses took longer to respond to call lights when patient call-light use on the unit was higher and the average length of patient stay was shorter. Nurse response time was not affected by total nursing hours or registered nurse (R.N.) hours. A shorter length of stay suggests the patients were generally less sick and should have presented fewer problems to the nursing staff. Instead, the important factor seems to have been the number of admissions and discharges to the unit, and more frequent procedures, treatments, and instances of patient education per patient-day—all activities that consume a substantial amount of nursing staff time, note the researchers. They found that the mean call-light response time in the five acute care community hospital units in the study was about 3 minutes (181.99 seconds), and that mean call-light use was nearly 5 times per patient-day.

The mean length of patient stay was 5.60 days, mean total nursing hours per patient-day were 8.15, and mean R.N. hours per patient-day were 4.76. The researchers examined data from February 2007 through June 2008 (17 months) from five adult acute-care inpatient units at a community hospital. Analysis included only normal calls made from the patient's bed or bathroom. The study was funded in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS18258). More details are in "Exploring the relationship between patient call-light use and nurse call-light response time in acute care settings," by Huey-Ming Tzeng, Ph.D., R.N., FAAN., and Janet L. Larson, Ph.D., R.N., in the March 2011 CIN:Computers, Informatics, Nursing 29(3), pp. 138-143.

Current as of November 2011
Internet Citation: Nurses in hospital units with a higher proportion of short-term patients take longer to respond to patient call lights: Research Activities, November 2011. November 2011. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/nov11/1111RA7.html