Call light abuse. What to do???


Today I had a pt. who was A&O x3. The nurse giving me report (this was a pt. transferred to me from another unit) said they like to push their call button. They will push it to tell you that they are going to watch a show on TV. As soon as you walk out of the room, they will push it again to tell you they are watching TV. So I got the pt settled in, do my assessment, etc. I walk out of the room and they put the call light on. I walk in and ask what they need. The conversation to follow goes like this:

RN: Your call light is on, what can I help you with?

Pt: I don't need anything.

RN: Did you push it by accident?

Pt: No

I leave the room after asking if there is anything they need once again.

5 minutes later... the call light is on. As I walk into the room I see them holding the call buttin and then putting it down real quick. It was intentional that they pushed it. Repeat above story. Then repeat it again, and again. Then again with the PCT, and another RN, then another PCT. You get the story. I feel like it was a game to them, but it could end up with them getting hurt because nobody wants to answer the call light if they are abusing it.

What do you do? How do you set limits?? Is there another way I can approach this??? Any help much appreciated.


57 Posts

With that kind of abuse, I would wonder if they have something loose in their head! I would tell them that when you need something, you should call us. Hopefully, that won't come off as too rude but he needs to respect the nurses.

He is bored and will hopefully leave the hospital soon. That's all I got.:down:


3 Posts

Tried that. I told them to only push the call button if they really needed something. We do hourly rounding so we are always going into rooms. Then the fun really began...

Specializes in ICU.

Haldol, ativan and psych consult

Specializes in ICU.

Also, did they come from the ICU where they were used to more attention, that could be part of it, but it really sounds like this is a nutjob. Explain to them what the patient ratio is here, reinforce hourly rounding, tell this to the doc as well so they can assist in setting limits. Is the patient confused? Pretty obnoxious. If that was me, id have put my foot down in a gentle but VERY firm way. You cant play nice nurse in these situations. Nip it in the bud

Sun0408, ASN, RN

1,761 Posts

Specializes in Trauma Surgical ICU. Has 4 years experience.

I like the psych consult idea and I would let the pt know. Something is off to hit the call light just say they are turning the tv on and then again to say they are watching a tv show.. If this person has no psych/social issues, I tend to be very frank. I let the pt know I will be in the room q1h for this and that and when assessments/meds are due, if they need help with something that is one thing but I do have other things to do and can't keep playing games. If they call for something they can do for themselves, I refuse,explain and walk out of the room. There is such a thing as being too nice :)


650 Posts

Has 8+ years experience.

Might not do any good, but what about saying directly, "I know you are pushing the call bell on purpose even when you don't need anything. You know we have to come in here whenever you ring. What is going on with you that is causing you to do that?"

I don't know the patient's history but sometimes people do weird things when they are stressed or scared. It could very well be that they are playing games or have some sort of personality disorder, but it could also be that maybe they are terrified, or lonely, and it's making them act out. Adults can be like children in this way sometimes.

I'd be tempted to ask them directly. Not angrily, mind you. Who knows, it could work. It likely couldn't hurt.

and if that didn't do any good, maybe remind them about the patient who cried wolf.

Specializes in NICU, ICU, PICU, Academia. Has 46 years experience.

You could always offer them $10 to stop it. :)

Sorry: That's all I got.........


511 Posts

Tell the patient that if the call light is pressed one more time with out any assistance actually being needed that you are going to come up in there with a belt after you get a psych consult..... (With a serious face)


2 Articles; 375 Posts

You could answer the call bell with the phone if your facility has that policy.

I personally am against that (if used to answer every single bell). However if the patient is abusing the bell system, then the phone may be more appropriate.

However where I work, the RN's don't usually answer call bells, it is usually the PCT.

Jenni811, RN

1,032 Posts

Specializes in Intermediate care. Has 3 years experience.

Ask if they ever heard of the story called "the little boy who cried wolf?" If not print it off Google, hand it to them and tell them to think long and hard about why you picked that to read.

Jenni811, RN

1,032 Posts

Specializes in Intermediate care. Has 3 years experience.

However where I work, the RN's don't usually answer call bells, it is usually the PCT.

Really!?? Everyone is required to answer call lights. Even my manager will come out of her cave and answer lights. The only one who doesn't is our nurse educator. She is lazy. She stands in the hallway telling people "room 21 light has been on for 3 minutes and 21.653 seconds." She just stands there staring at them like she is star gazing. I just want to be like...COME JOIN THE FUN!!! lazy turd. :) oops...did I say that?