Secret Service

One of the biggest complaints in hospitals and nursing homes is how long it takes to get the help you need. A fanatical commitment to world class service is the right way to solve this symptom. AND, there’s a way to cut call light/wait time in half while improving morale between direct-care staff — join the secret service!

Picture it … you’re a patient recovering from surgery. You are experiencing severe pain. You push your call light for the nurse. 3 minutes later, a nurse’s aide walks in and asks what you need. She tells you that she’ll go get the nurse for you. Unfortunately for the nurse aide and for you, the nurse is in her secret hiding spot in the facility where she can actually get some of her documentation done. The aide looks up and down the hall. No nurse. She goes to the med cart. No nurse. How is the aide feeling toward the nurse? More importantly, how are you feeling about the aide, the nurse, and the whole facility?

The best solution I’ve found to that (and hundreds of other) scenarios is a pretty simple technology that the secret service uses to protect the president. And … of course, we have a lot of fun telling the hospitals, doctors, and prospective residents that “if it’s good enough for the president of the United States, it’s good enough for our residents.”

Imagine having each of your nurses and aides with the secret service ear piece in one ear while they work. Then, that scenario above plays out like this … you ask for pain meds. The aide immediately presses her microphone button under her scrubs and says, “Roxanne, Mr. Jones needs a pain pill.” (Everyone hears that in their ear) Roxanne — in her secret hiding place — responds on her undercover mic, “Tell him I’ll be right there.”

Let’s do the math together to drive the point home:

Let’s take a 99-bed facility with 90 residents (high acuity). The day shift has the following in nursing: 5 licensed nurses, 10 nurse aides, 1 RNA. How many times during her shift does the nurse or CNA look for someone for assistance (ie, help with transfers, pain pills, showering, ADLs, wound care, room change, etc., etc., etc.)? Let’s say 20 times. On average, how much time does it take to find the person you’re looking for? Sometimes 20 seconds. Sometimes 10 minutes. Let’s say 5 minutes. Now let’s do the math …

– 16 staff in nursing x 20 searches for help x 5 minutes per search = 1,600 minutes/60 minutes = 27 hours.
LET THAT SINK IN! On one shift alone, your nursing staff is spending a collective 27 hours “looking for someone to help.” It’s insane! That equals:
– 54 hours/day (treating the next two shifts like one day shift due to fewer staff)
– 68 days/month
– 818 days/year

If you really want to pull your hair out, calculate the wage cost of that “looking for someone to help.” When I show this to Directors of Nursing, they have heart attacks. If your nursing staff/DNS is pushing back at all to the idea, do that math with them and you’ll see a change of heart. Just think of how much more care can be delivered if you had 54 hours/day more of nursing time available?!

The radios & headsets we use have benefited us in several ways …
– improved communication between nursing staff
– more efficient use of our time
– created buzz in the patient & labor market
– eliminated the hated/annoying overhead paging

Externally … this has been HUGE for us in our community for marketing. The DC planners, doctors, vendors, etc. are thrilled that a SNF is so progressive/pro-active to this very common problem in healthcare. If you preach/market customer service as your distinguishing characteristic and are able to back it up with the secret service ear piece action … buzz, buzz, buzz.

Post a comment/question or email me to find out more details about this solution. I have no vested interest in any technology solution provider by the way. I just can’t imagine delivering healthcare any other way anymore.