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Badge overlays help patients, visitors identify FirstHealth bedside staff

| Date Posted: 8/30/2010

Badge overlays help patients

Nursing Assistant Denise Purcell, LPN Mattie Locklear and registered nurse Deanna Phelps (from left) display the green overlay for nursing assistants, the purple overlay for LPNs and the red overlay for registered nurses that are part of a new initiative designed to make specific members of FirstHealth’s bedside staff more easily identifiable to patients, visitors and hospital employees.

PINEHURST – Back in the day, when starched white uniforms and crisp white hats were standard attire for the registered nursing staff, patients had no trouble identifying registered nurses from LPNs, nursing assistants and other providers of bedside care.

Not so after everyone started wearing comfortable and colorful scrubs.

About two years ago, after the question of staff identification was raised with the Nurse Research Council at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital, two nurses took it on as a research project for their BSN degree program. Their findings contributed to the recent adoption of overlays to the standard FirstHealth employee badges that easily identify members of the staff as registered nurses, LPNs, nursing assistants, respiratory therapists, physician assistants and surgical technologists.

“The initiative has been great,” says Linda Wallace, vice president of Patient Care Services and chief nursing officer at Moore Regional. “It really helps us communicate who we are and allows the patients and families an easy way to identify our skill levels.”

The color-coded overlay initiative is almost fully implemented at Moore Regional and is also under way at Richmond Memorial and Montgomery Memorial.

“The initiative has gone very well at Richmond Memorial,” says Chief Operating Officer Allison Duckworth. “The staff was extremely receptive to the badges, and most are wearing them. I think the badge overlays are a positive experience for patients and families, as they are now easily able to identify what types of clinicians are providing care.”

As BSN candidates in FirstHealth’s nursing degree partnership with Winston-Salem State University, Moore Regional nurses Beth Yost and Betsy Thomas, with the assistance of Lyn Austin, R.N., of the Nurse Research Council, decided to survey patients on the nursing identification question. They went into the project assuming that patients would prefer a return to the white uniforms of days gone by, but found – after talking to about 200 patients in adult acute care – just the opposite to be the case.

Most said they didn’t mind what nurses wore, as long as the attire was professional looking.

“But they wanted to be able to identify their nurse when she walked in the room,” Yost says.

The information Yost, Thomas and Austin collected and compiled eventually went to Moore Regional’s Work Environment Council and then to Cheryl Batchelor, executive director of Moore Regional Clinical Operations, and Dan Biediger, vice president of FirstHealth Human Resources, for their input.

The result were the two-sided overlays, called “badge buddies,” that fit over the standard employee badge: red for R.N., purple for LPN, green for nursing assistant, dark blue for respiratory therapist, black for physician assistant and dark yellow for surgical techs.

“We wanted a badge that was color-coded with a different color for each bedside provider,” Batchelor says. “We also wanted a badge that allowed the R.N. title to be clearly visible from both the front and back of the identification badge.”

The initiative has apparently worked well – with the staff as well as with patients and visitors. “Some people who were not included (in the original overlay group) have come and said, ‘We want that, too,’” says Yost.

Everyone involved with the program is clear that patients have always been the primary concern, however. “It’s not about the staff,” says Yost. “It’s about the patient and improving something that is about patient satisfaction as well as safety.”

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