Night-time communication at Stanford University Hospital: perceptions, reality and solutions

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Abstract

Background

Resident work hour restrictions have led to the creation of the ‘night float’ to care for the patients of multiple primary teams after hours. These residents are often inundated with acute issues in the numerous patients they cover and are less able to address non-urgent issues that arise at night. Further, non-urgent pages may contribute to physician alarm fatigue and negatively impact patient outcomes.

Objective

To delineate the burden of non-urgent paging at night and propose solutions.

Methods

We performed a resident review and categorisation of 1820 pages to night floats between September 2014 and December 2014. Both attending and nursing review of 10% of pages was done and compared.

Results

Of reviewed pages, 62.1% were urgent and 27.7% were non-urgent. Attending review of random page samples correlated well with resident review. Common reasons for non-urgent pages were non-urgent patient status updates, low-priority order requests and non-critical lab values.

Conclusions

A significant number of non-urgent pages are sent at night. These pages likely distract from acute issues that arise at night and place an unnecessary burden on night floats. Both behavioural and systemic adjustments are needed to address this issue. Possible interventions include integrating low-priority messaging into the electronic health record system and use of charge nurses to help determine urgency of issues and batch non-urgent pages.

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