Over the last four years, Piedmont Healthcare has rapidly grown from five hospitals to 11. But because each new facility had its own emergency alert system, there was confusion among the staff.
Many nurses work at multiple facilities across the Atlanta-area system so they had many different color-coded alerts to keep track of. A code pink at one hospital meant an infant abduction, but at another it was sudden infant cardiac arrest.
“We felt the codes being different colors and everyone using them differently caused a huge amount of confusion for staff and could lead to an adverse outcome as a result,” said Denise Ray, Piedmont’s chief nursing officer.
To avoid the potential for patient harm, Piedmont began efforts about six months ago to transition its alerts to one system using plain language. The new alert system, which went into effect in September, briefly explains the emergency using a few words rather than color codes. For instance, code silver, which usually indicates an armed intruder, was changed to “security alert” along with a description of the threat such as an active shooter and then a location of the threat plus a description of the perpetrator. Operators announce the alerts over the speaker system as was previously done with color codes.