How Jefferson Health is promoting nurse safety with a new alert system

Philadelphia-based Jefferson Health has partnered with the healthcare technology start-up Strongline to develop an easier way for nurses and other hospital staff to call for help during potentially dangerous situations. The Strongline Staff Safety System features Bluetooth-enabled ID badges with built-in alert buttons clinicians can discreetly press during emergencies. 

Jefferson is currently piloting the Strongline system on three units at Philadelphia-based Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and intends to eventually expand the program across its 14 hospitals.

Below, Michelle Lewandowski, RN, a nurse manager at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, discusses the challenges and advantages involved in piloting the system.

Editor's note: Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Question: Can you briefly explain the new emergency call system?

Michelle Lewandowski: If an employee is in a patient room or encounters a disgruntled family member in the hall, he or she can quietly push a button on their ID badge that sends an alert to security. The alert says "this person needs assistance here" and is also sent to all unit cellphones and unit leadership. This way, nearby employees can also assist the staff member in danger. We also get an alert confirming that help is on the way.

Q: What was the motivation behind establishing the new system?

ML: Our nursing staff experienced violence while working, particularly when patients would become agitated. Some nurses even began to think violence against staff was the norm. Before implementing the new system, we had duress alarms at nursing stations. This required staff to leave the patient room to pull the alarm, which could escalate situations even further because patients knew we were calling for security or assistance. The new system has really helped de-escalate situations sooner. 

Q: Were there any unforeseen obstacles in the implementation process?

ML: Initially, the device had a lot of false alarms, and nurses weren't really sure if someone was actually coming to help. We worked with Strongline and specifically tailored the device for Jefferson staff. The feedback from frontline staff was really what made the device work. Now, the device uses a double-click technology to prevent false alarms. 

Q: What improvements have you seen since implementing the system? 

ML: We implemented the program a year and a half ago on our neurotrauma, epilepsy monitoring and ear, nose and throat units. The most important change is that staff feel more supported by leadership and peers. When they press the button, they know someone will be there in seconds. 

For more information on the safety system, click here.

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