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Hospital etiquette


Specializes in Med-Surg.

Is it appropriate for a family member to go ask a nurse for help vs pressing the call bell? Does it depend on the situation? Example My husband was in the hospital a few weeks ago and the iv drip started beeping, since I was with him I just went to the nurse desk to tell them. Also at one point his iv started bleeding I also went and said something to the first nurse I saw in the hallway. Do nurses find that annoying, is it always better to ring the call button and wait?

noyesno, MSN, APRN, NP

Specializes in Family Medicine. Has 11 years experience.

Please ring the call light first, if it's not something emergent. If you're waiting a long time, please call me directly on my phone. If you are really, really waiting a long time, just press the restart button on the IV pump (TOTALLY KIDDING).

It's hard when people come up to you and ask for something directly because you feel like you need to stop what you are doing and help them RIGHT AWAY. Not to mention, interruptions can screw me up. I may put in the wrong physician order or chart something incorrectly.

Sounds like the nurses made you feel like you were annoying them. Not okay. Also, he probably should have gotten a new IV site if it kept beeping like cray. I hate when nurses make patient's feel bad for calling about their beeping IV over and over. Just put a new site in already. Jeez.

JustBeachyNurse, RN

Specializes in Complex pediatrics turned LTC/subacute geriatrics. Has 11 years experience.

Non emergent (and a beeping IV alarm is annoying but not emergent. There are safety mechanisms in place) press the call button. If no response in a few minutes, call the nurse if the facility gives out the nurse numbers. Going to any staff member you may interrupt what they are doing and inadvertently cause an error. The random nurse approached might be not from the floor, not familiar with your family member in room 9 or not even a licensed nurse.

A bleeding IV site is urgent but can wait for a response to a call bell.

Now unresponsive, stroke symptoms, chest pain-- ring the bell and call out for help. Or call the rapid response team.

~PedsRN~, BSN, RN

Specializes in Acute Care Pediatrics. Has 4 years experience.

This is one of my pet peeves as a nurse.

You may come out and grab me... but I don't know the patient, the situation, their diet, their activity orders, etc. I can stop an IV from beeping, but I don't know if I need to restart it, change the fluids, the rate, etc.

Hitting the call bell ensures that your nurse will be the one to respond, or if not - she will fill in the nurse going into the room on pertinent information that she needs to know.

WanderingWilder, ASN

Specializes in Med-Surg.

Thank you all for your answers. Wasn't something I thought about while there, after we got home I was like gee maybe I was annoying. I'll do better next if there is a next time.


Specializes in Hospital medicine; NP precepting; staff education. Has 20 years experience.

That's very thoughtful of you to ask. Not many are as considerate. I agree with previous posters.

In my department (The emergency department) I am often sat at a corner spot at the desk which happens to also be a high traffic area. This makes me very accessible to everyone, which is both great and not-so-great. To give you insight as a family member and a visitor, I really am happy to help you, but often interruptions which may seem innocuous are not. But please, if it is something critical or very serious, let me know right away. Other things can usually be put off for a moment. The ER (or ED) is an extremely fast paced environment and I may have several things at once that I have to prioritize and if it is something that can be delegated to another, I'll do it.

Our goal is never to ignore you or discard your needs. Just sometimes they have to be integrated among other care. Thank you for not mentioning to the staff "Gee, I wish I could play on the computer all day." I appreciate that you did not indicate anything like that. In this digital age, we receive all (or most) of our orders and results and communication that way, so I'm glued to it when I'm not at my patient's or family members' sides.

I hope he is doing well and that your stay was at least meeting your expectations.

Call light first if not emergent. So many people will come up to the main nurse's station and ask questions about patients or how they are doing. If the primary nurse isn't there, the secretary or other staff will not always know the answers. those questions can then be missed if they get busy and forget to mention it for a while to me. The call light allows for direct communication with who you need. And where I work, our system will even tell us the request. For example, we get a message on our phone that says one of these phrases usually: nurse needed, tech needed, IV beeping or bleeding or hurting, patient needs pain medication, patient needs bathroom assist, patient ready for discharge. It is so helpful.

Nonyvole, BSN, RN

Specializes in Emergency.

Call light. But, in my department, if there is no response in a couple minutes, I have no issue with people coming out. There are some that I have worked with who will not answer call bells, or just turn them off at the desk. (Yes, they were dealt with.)