The Difference between a Nurse Calling System and a Mass Notification System in Senior Care Facilities

Picture of Tara Gibson By Tara Gibson

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nurse and patient in nursing homeNurse calling systems and mass notification systems in senior care facilities differ widely in their purposes; but, as both types of systems become more technologically advanced, they can be used in unison to provide a safer environment for patients and staff.

If you ask a man in the street "what's the difference between a nurse calling system and a mass notification system in senior care facilities" he'll tell you (after a quick search on Google) a nurse calling system is for residents to call a nurse when they need help, and a mass notification system is to communicate emergency alerts and other information to large groups of people simultaneously.

On the face of it the two systems have two different purposes; but, as technology advances, there is a complementary crossover developing between the two systems that can result in residents enjoying a higher standard of care, and staff enjoying a safer working environment. Furthermore, certain features of both systems can enhance productivity within senior care facilities.

How Nurse Calling Systems have Evolved Over the Years

Go back no more than twenty years, and nurse calling systems consisted of doorbell-like buzzers attached to a wall which lit a light on a nursing station dashboard when pressed. With the arrival of Bluetooth technology, wall-mounted buzzers were replaced by wearable pendants, fobs, or wristbands in order to make nursing assistance more accessible for bedbound residents.

More recently, medical sensors attached to clothes, placed on the body, or implanted into residents have enabled senior care facilities to automate nurse calling systems. The medical sensors can detect changes in blood pressure, heart rate, or respiration rate and alert the appropriate medical team to a sudden change in condition or prolonged deterioration that requires medical intervention.

The latest systems facilitate patient-to-staff voice communications, support real-time locating in order to comply with CMS' Emergency Preparedness Rule, and integration with electronic health records for admissions, discharges, and transfers. They also enable nurse managers to access system data remotely to view patient call activity, review report data, and make nurse-to-resident assignments.

Mass Notification Systems are More Versatile than Ever

Mass notification systems have also evolved remarkably over the past twenty years - driven by a need to improve emergency communications during disasters such as the 9/11 attacks. Modern systems now have multi-modal capabilities to address redundancy issues and can be operated from any Internet connected device in order to act as incident command centers when necessary.

How a Comprehensive Communication System Can Improve Nurse Safety

The systems support database segmentation so that individual groups can be contacted by role, location, or other attribute; and, in non-emergency situations, this can significantly enhance internal communications. The systems can also be integrated with panic button apps, anonymous tip apps, and vulnerable needs registries to rapidly identify individuals who have critical medical dependencies.

A recent development in mass notification systems that can be particularly useful to senior care facilities is a geo-poll feature. This feature sends messages to specific recipients or locations (i.e. state incident managers or neighboring healthcare facilities) in a question and answer format in order to comply with the Communications Plan element of CMS' Emergency Preparedness Rule. For senior care facilities it can also be used to efficiently ascertain staff availability when vacant shifts exist that need filling.

Where the Two Systems Can be Used in Unison

As technology advances, there have become many scenarios in which the two systems can be used in unison. For example, when mass notification systems are integrated with nurse calling systems, the auto-translate capabilities of the mass notification system can facilitate better communication between nurses and residents when a resident´s first language is not English.

The two systems can enhance security responses when a nurse is being physically attacked, when a patient is demonstrating suicidal or violent mental health issues, or when the partner of a terminally ill resident enters the senior care facilities to end their partner's life involuntarily. There are also benefits for anonymously alerting managers to malpractice or a decline in nursing standards.

The mass notification system can also act as a back-up to a nurse calling system, or to assist with the search for missing residents who have removed location tracking sensors. Indeed, whether working independently or in unison, there are many ways in which a nurse calling systems and a mass notification systems can provide a safer environment for patients and staff, and enhance productivity within senior care facilities.

Find Out More about Mass Notification Systems for Senior Care Facilities

If you are responsible for safety, security, or compliance with CMS' Emergency Preparedness Rule in a senior care facility, and you would like to more about the benefits of integrating a mass notification system with a nurse calling system, do not hesitate to get in touch. Our team of safety experts will be happy to discuss your existing systems and make suggestions about how our range of mobile solutions can help enhance communication within your senior care facility.

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Written by Tara Gibson

Tara is a Marketing Coordinator on the Rave Mobile Safety marketing team. She loves writing about all things K-12 education, and manages the Rave social media channels. When she's not working, she's taking care of her smiley, shoe eating, Instagram-famous fur baby, Enzo!

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