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Knock, Knock. Who’s There? Asystole.

At work, we have Voceras.  They are little phones that we wear around our necks.  We use them to call each other, other departments, take phone calls.  They were a little annoying at first and kind of hard to get used to using, but now we all use them every day and I personally have found them to be really helpful.  Our unit is large, and instead of walking around trying to find Susie Q RN to tell her she has a phone call, we just click our Vocera button and can reach her instantly.  Easy.

They added a feature a little while ago.  The Voceras now tie in with the patient monitors.  I don’t know how it all works; for all I know, the unit secretary brings out a magic wand, chants a spell, and then the monitor and Vocera both know what patient I have that day.  This results in a couple of things.

First, when MY particular patient puts their call light on, in addition to hearing it throughout the unit, my personal Vocera makes a sound so that I know without looking around that it’s my patient who needs help.  Next, and this is pretty interesting – when my patient has an arryhthmia, my Vocera makes a “do-dunk” sound.  It kind of sounds like a knock.  I look at the little screen and it tells me which room is alarming and what the alarm is.  All very helpful when I’m in my other patient’s room.

So one day, I had a patient that wasn’t doing very well.  We were communicating with the patient’s family and trying to decide whether or not to make him a no-code, or withdraw life support altogether.  It’s an understandably difficult decision to make and the family was struggling with it.  As the day wore on, though, the patient was becoming more and more unstable.  The monitor started alarming, which made my Vocera start doing its “do-dunk” sound when the patient started having bradycardia.  The family still wasn’t comfortable with the idea of taking him off of life support though.

Then it came to be my turn to go to lunch.  We had a break nurse, so she could completely take over caring for my patient and only my patient while I was gone.  I brought her up to speed on the situation.  As I left, I could see the family coming out of the room to talk to the nurse that took over for me.

I went to the cafeteria to get lunch, brought it back to the break room, and started to eat.  I was talking with a coworker about our kids when I heard the familiar “do-dunk.”  But when I looked at my Vocera, it said, “Room 2-0-1-1 ASYSTOLE.”

And that is how I found out, over lunch and lighthearted conversation, that my patient had died.

I told my co-worker what my Vocera said, and without even looking up she replied, “You know, you can push that ‘Do Not Disturb’ button.”

Um… yeah.

When I returned from lunch, the break nurse started to say, “Your patient…”

I just said, “Yeah, I know.”

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Sorry, Gina. Not much of a break was it? So sorry. As an aside, not sure about the do not disturb feature…it silences vocera to vocera calls, but don’t know if it will silence the monitor alarms.
What an unhappy way to hear about the patient and family with whom you had bonded and shared so much with. I am grateful they had a nurse like you to care for and about them.

[...] *This blog post was originally published at code blog – tales of a nurse* [...]

great blog! I just found your site and I read few articles and will be back. You are truely an inspiration to all us CNAs and Nurses alike. God bless you.

Unlike having a cellphone (which I’m unsure is a good thing as we get more and more connected, and more and more distracted). I think the vyocera’s are a good thing. Sorry to hear you lost your patient on what was supposed to be “You” time, but it sounds like it might end up making your job easier in the end. :)

Good luck Gina!


Vocera sounds like amazing technology, but that’s almost like getting a text message someone died. It’s just… cold.

Our ER started using a kinda of walkie talk like system. Everyone had to wear one and when you talked on it every one including patients could hear what was being said. Slowly everyone began to stop using them. Now their talking about us using head gear I personally think that Vocera sounds much better and feel that I might look into it more and possibly speak to the ER manager about it.

unfortunately we don’t have a device like Vocera in hospital that i am job training right now.

I call ours the “voscary”, used it for years, at first GREAT…then they started to not work so well…BTW, ours responds with a “beam me up Scotty” command!!

[...] Voceras is the subject at Codeblog.   Yeah you’ll have to go read it to find out what the hell Voceras is. [...]

We’ve used voceras for a while now on a tele floor (long enough to get them all replaced), and I had no idea you could tie them into monitors. Will definitely bring that up for discussion.

Hey! I just nominated you for the versatile blog award winner! Check it out here & keep up the good work! http://nurselyssie.wordpress.com/2011/12/31/im-a-versatile-blogger-award-winner/

I’m not a nurse but I’ve spent a lot of time at the hospital with my grandparents that have been sick a lot lately. I’ve seen the nurses wearing the “walkie talkie” looking things and it seemed like it worked really well for them. While walking around to find Susie Q RN does give you great exercise, I can imagine it would suck to do that alot lol. Sorry to hear about your patient. Although maybe it’s just me but it almost seemed like your co-worker was cold hearted when you told her your patient died. I know it wasn’t a family member of yours but I would think if it’s your patient there is still some type of emotional connection and would be like loosing a friend. Seems like “ah thats to bad” or “I’m sorry to hear that” would have been a better response. :(

I’ve experienced something similar while being on my lunch break. I had a patient go unstable, and had to rush out and transfer the patient to ICU. Scary experience, but learned a great deal fromit.

I will have to research the vocera as well. It sounds like an incredible tool to increase efficiency!

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  • profileI am Gina. I have been a nurse for 15 years, first in med/surg, then CVICU, inpatient dialysis, CCU and now hospice. This blog is about my experiences as a nurse, and the experiences of others in the healthcare system - patients, nurses, doctors, paramedics. We all have stories!

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