When patients keep calling 911

Nurses Relations


Acute care hospital. Patient doesn't get what she wants from the kitchen: calls 911. Doesn't get a snack because we have to save them for diabetic urgencies: calls 911. Pain med is late or the doctor DCs it: calls 911. OK so what do you do? Confiscate the phone, she comes out to the hall screaming and cursing, follows staff around. Security can't do anything and police can't touch them unless it's a threat. This isn't unusual unfortunately with some of our patients. My guess is we have to put up with it forever. Thoughts?

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Specializes in retired LTC.

I don't think you're allowed to take their phone away.

Make sure the family knows.

Doesn't the 911 dispatcher call you for in-house pt phone calls? I don't know if there's any penalty for false alarms, but maybe a law enforcement person should show up and read the riot act TO THE PT, not the hosp..

Specializes in Critical care.

How about a 1:1 sitter order? Order for haldol if necessary, etc.

Specializes in retired LTC.

I don't think you can chemically restrain the pt - not a threat to self, others or the environment!

Specializes in Pediatrics Retired.

Of course, I don't work there so I can't actually relate but I can just say, how does a patient placing a non-emergency 911 call have anything to do with you or your nursing care. It's a relationship developed between the patient and 911 Operator and subsequent action would be the patient's responsibility. I'd do nothing about it. The police agency will eventually get it worked out with the person placing the calls.

Why can't the police do anything? Last time I checked (at least in my area) calling 911 for frivolous things is a crime.

No one that I'm aware of has actually done this at my hospital. It's like an urban legend.

I have several family members that are in law enforcement. I would not want to be the person that did this when they responded.

i have heard of patients in LTC facilities doing this. I believe the nurse told me that the 911 center had taken to calling the facility before responding.

Specializes in Critical Care; Cardiac; Professional Development.

Yeah, my first thought too was just let them call. 911 has protocols in place for dealing with nuisance citizens abusing the system and clogging up the lines. Natural consequences should happen. If 911 calls you guys to complain, remind them of their protocol and stress that you don't have the authority to stop this person, they do.

Specializes in CVICU CCRN.

This happens a lot on my unit when a patient is confused, so as another poster stated, law enforcement calls in house to our facility to verify what is going on.

We we will call a security threat if a patient leaves the room in a threatening manner and is following staff. We get orders for anti agitation meds and restraints of necessary, but these are confused unsafe patients. I have never had an oriented patient call 911 out of spite or whatever.

if this patient is oriented then law enforcement needs to work it out w/the patient per their policy. If not, the patient has at very least bought themselves a sitter and haldol.

Specializes in EMS, ED, Trauma, CEN, CPEN, TCRN.

Abuse of 911 does have legal ramifications in many jurisdictions. I have seen some frequent mis-users of the system receive various punishments that deterred them from repeated mis-using the system.

Specializes in SICU, trauma, neuro.
Why can't the police do anything? Last time I checked (at least in my area) calling 911 for frivolous things is a crime

Exactly my thought -- abuse of 911 is against the law. Based on what you posted it sounds deliberate, not a 90 yr old with dementia calling 911 because she thinks she's been kidnapped and held prisoner.

If anyone calls the nurse's station to report the calls to you/other staff, I would refuse to engage. "There's nothing I can do to stop her/your dept needs to follow usual protocols for abuse of 911."

Specializes in SICU, trauma, neuro.

I would probably look up the law in your county though, and advise the pt. Hopefully that would deter her, but if not she needs to face the consequences for her behavior. She is using emergency resources and tying up lines that people need, say when they're bleeding out from an injury or someone is breaking into their home, or their house is on fire.

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