Medical standards might not trigger an alarm, but a mother’s instincts are pretty accurate when things are not right.
~ Anne Ussery, member, Children’s Hospital Family Advisory Council
A new system at Vanderbilt gives families a powerful tool to call quickly for help if they suspect a patient’s condition is worsening or a serious new health concern is developing. The Family Initiated Rapid Response Team program is much like calling 911: When a family member dials 11111 from a Vanderbilt patient’s room, a LifeFlight operator dispatches a “rapid response team” of physicians and nurses. The program rolled out last fall in all non-intensive-care patient units for Vanderbilt University Hospital and the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.
“There are situations when things may change so quickly that the family may pick up on it before the bedside nurse can,” says Dr. Brad Strohler, MS’06, chair of the Rapid Response Committee at Children’s Hospital and assistant professor of pediatrics and anesthesiology.
Signs in every noncritical-care patient room tell families they can dial 11111 from their room to report life-threatening changes in a patient’s condition, or if they fear a situation is becoming a medical emergency.
But doesn’t such a system invite abuse, overtaxing the response team with nonemergency calls? “Rather than seeing abuse of the system, we found the vast majority of family members respect it like they do calling 911 at home,” says Brent Lemonds, administrative director of emergency services and specialty nursing at VUH. Lemonds headed up a pilot of the program at the hospital last spring.
Anne Ussery is a finance manager at VUH and a member of the Family Advisory Council at Children’s Hospital, which worked with hospital officials to craft language for educational materials to explain the program to parents. “The point is that medical standards might not trigger an alarm, but a mother’s instincts are pretty accurate when things are not right,” she says. “If you have that ‘gut feeling,’ this is another resource.”