Nurse call button

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
A nurse call button on a pillow speaker with TV controls
This hospital bed has a nurse call button on its rails

A nurse call button is a button or cord found in hospitals and nursing homes, at places where patients are at their most vulnerable, such as beside their bed and in the bathroom.[1]. It allows patients in health care settings to alert a nurse or other health care staff member remotely of their need for help. When the button is pressed, a signal alerts staff at the nurse's station, and usually, a nurse or nurse assistant responds to such a call. Some systems also allow the patient to speak directly to the staffer; others simply beep or buzz at the station, requiring a staffer to actually visit the patient's room to determine the patient's needs.

The call button provides the following benefits to patients:

  • Enables a patient who is confined to bed and has no other way of communicating with staff to alert a nurse of the need for any type of assistance
  • Enables a patient who is able to get out of bed, but for whom this may be hazardous, exhausting, or otherwise difficult to alert a nurse of the need for any type of assistance
  • Provides the patient an increased sense of security

The call button can also be used by a health care staff member already with the patient to call for another when such assistance is needed, or by visitors to call for help on behalf of the patient.

Laws and regulations[edit]

Laws in most places require that a call button must be in reach of the patient at all times for example in the patients bed or on the table. It is essential to patients in emergencies.[2] There are also laws that vary by location setting the amount of time in which staff must respond to a call.[3]

It is the responsibility of nursing staff to explain to the patients that they have a call button and to teach them how to use it.[4]


Some patients develop the habit of overusing a call button. This can lead staff to frustration, alarm fatigue, up to and including ignoring or disregarding the patient's calls or not taking them very seriously. "Alarm fatigue" refers to the response - or lack of it - of nurses to more than a dozen types of alarms that can sound hundreds of times a day - and many of those calls are false alarms. Staff cannot ignore such calls, as doing so violates the law in most places. Sometimes, mental health professionals will work with such patients in order to curtail their use of the button to serious need.[3]

System types[edit]


The most basic system has nothing more than a button for the patient. When the button is pressed, nursing staff is alerted by a light and/or an audible sound at the nurse's station. This can only be turned off from the patient's bedside, thereby compelling staff to respond to the patient.

Wireless nurse call[edit]

Like hardwired systems, wireless types have the ability to alert nursing staff by sound, light or show messages in a terminal. An advantage is that there is less wiring during installation and reducing the costs. The dome lights in the hallway still usually require wiring for power. Disadvantages of wireless systems include the requirement of batteries in each patient station that must be monitored and replaced over the life of the system, heightened risk of signal interference with other systems in the facility, and a limited selection among UL 1069 approved wireless systems.


In some facilities, often in hospitals, a more advanced system is included, in which staff from the nurse's station can communicate directly with patients via intercom. This has the advantage in which staff does not need to waste time walking to the patient's room to determine the reason the patient made the call, and they can determine by speaking to the patient whether the situation is urgent or if it can wait until later.[5]

With the intercom system, the alert can be turned off from the nurse's station, allowing staff to avoid entry into the patient's room if it is determined that the patient's need can be met without doing so.

Cell phone alerts[edit]

Newer technology allows call buttons to reach cell phone-like devices carried around by nursing staff. Staffers can then answer the calls from wherever they are located within the facility, thereby improving the speed and efficiency in the response.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Nurse Call". Intellisec.
  2. ^ Back injury among healthcare workers: causes, solutions, and impacts - William Charney, Mary Anne Hudson - Google Books. Retrieved 2012-02-17.
  3. ^ a b Geriatric residential care - Robert D. Hill, Brian L. Thorn, John Bowling, Anthony Morrison - Google Books. Retrieved 2012-02-17.
  4. ^ Brunner and Suddarth's textbook of medical-surgical nursing - Lillian Sholtis Brunner, Suzanne C. Smeltzer, Brenda G. Bare, Janice L. Hinkle, Kerry H. Cheever - Google Books. 2009-11-24. Retrieved 2012-02-17.
  5. ^ What Great Telecom Managers Know - Roger K. Yang - Google Books. 2005-05-28. Retrieved 2012-02-17.
  6. ^ "Don't Call It a Cell Phone". Archived from the original on 2012-02-27. Retrieved 2012-02-17.