Background: Little research has been done on patient call light use and staff response time, which were found to be associated with inpatient falls and satisfaction. Nurses' perspectives may moderate or mediate the aforementioned relationships. This exploratory study intended to understand staff's perspectives about call lights, staff responsiveness, and the reasons for and the nature of call light use. It also explored differences among hospitals and identified significant predictors of the nature of call light use.
Methods: This cross-sectional, multihospital survey study was conducted from September 2008 to January 2009 in four hospitals located in the Midwestern region of the United States. A brief survey was used. All 2309 licensed and unlicensed nursing staff members who provide direct patient care in 27 adult care units were invited to participate. A total of 808 completed surveys were retrieved for an overall response rate of 35%. The SPSS 16.0 Window version was used. Descriptive and binary logistic regression analyses were conducted.
Results: The primary reasons for patient-initiated calls were for toileting assistance, pain medication, and intravenous problems. Toileting assistance was the leading reason. Each staff responded to 6 to 7 calls per hour and a call was answered within 4 minutes (estimated). 49% of staff perceived that patient-initiated calls mattered to patient safety. 77% agreed that that these calls were meaningful. 52% thought that these calls required the attention of nursing staff. 53% thought that answering calls prevented them from doing the critical aspects of their role. Staff's perceptions about the nature of calls varied across hospitals. Junior staff tended to overlook the importance of answering calls. A nurse participant tended to perceive calls as more likely requiring nursing staff's attention than a nurse aide participant.
Conclusions: If answering calls was a high priority among nursing tasks, staff would perceive calls as being important, requiring nursing staff's attention, and being meaningful. Therefore, answering calls should not be perceived as preventing staff from doing the critical aspects of their role. Additional efforts are necessary to reach the ideal or even a reasonable level of patient safety-first practice in current hospital environments.