Standardizing wristband colors seen as a life-saver

Published here with permission from St. Anthony Medical Center.

Sisters of St. Francis Health Services, Saint Anthony

Bill Bero
Communications & Media Relations Specialist

News Release
Released March 20, 2009
Marketing & Communications Dept.
1201 South Main Street
Crown Point, IN 46307

Saint Anthony nurses, Purdue Calumet students
work on statewide program

CROWN POINT | Four Purdue University Calumet senior nursing students, working with Saint Anthony Medical Center in conjunction with an education initiative, are involved in a statewide effort to better assure patient safety through use of standardized, color-coded wristbands.

The Indiana Hospital Association is asking hospitals to adopt, by December, standardized wristband colors to denote patients’ status and special requirements, or to not use bands with colors. Indiana is among a handful of states without standardized colors.

The students’ assignment, as part of a Senior Capstone Course in Nursing, was to develop materials and a presentation detailing the IHA’s proposal that hospitals could utilize.

The Capstone course, in its second year at Purdue’s Hammond campus, is part of its touted experiential learning criteria for nursing students. Teams work with organizations to identify problems or concerns and to develop an appropriate response.

Each team works under the direction of participating organization’s project coordinator; in Saint Anthony’s case, Susanne Heinzman. Heinzman, clinical nurse specialist and student liaison, submitted the project request to the Purdue program in October.

The efforts of the students, Madilyn Moran, Jessica Langlois, Sarah Goranovich and Ashley Canon, were applauded at Saint Anthony recently, after they presented their project to seven nursing officials from Sisters of St. Francis Health Services Northern Indiana Region, parent of Saint Anthony. Also on hand was Janet Landrum, the students’ instructor, who is a visiting assistant professor of nursing at the university.

SSFHS hospital representatives indicated support for the project. The student team, which called itself “Project Wristband,” got started by contacting Betsy Lee of the IHA, seeking information and resources to help enhance the project. The team sent her drafts of its work and as a result, the IHA is considering incorporating parts of the project in templates for a Web site it is creating for the standardization effort. The students will be recognized for portions of the work that are used, Lee said.

“They did a good job on this project,” she added.

The students pointed out how use of non-standardized wristband colors at various healthcare facilities has led to near-disaster.

One case took place in Pennsylvania, where a nurse, who had worked at two different hospitals, mistakenly put a yellow wristband on a patient. That color signified “Restricted Extremity” at one facility and “Do Not Resuscitate” at the other. As a result, the patient nearly was denied resuscitation.

IHA-recommended standardized colors include:

  • Yellow – Fall Risk.
  • Green – Latex Allergy.
  • Purple – Do Not Resuscitate.
  • Pink – Restricted Extremity.
  • Red – Allergy.
  • Clear/white – Patient Identification.

The students said the project’s results exceeded their expectations.

“We feel honored that the work of students has gone so far as to be (considered for) a template for an association as big as the Indiana Hospital Association. I never thought our project would go this far and we are all very excited,” Langlois said.

Ashley Canon, Madilyn Moran, Jessica Langlois and Sarah Goranovich

Purdue University Calumet Senior Capstone nursing students recently gave a presentation at Saint Anthony Medical Center, as part of a university-hospital education program, on the feasibility of the state using standardized, color-coded patient wristbands. Shown with part of their display are, from left: Ashley Canon, Madilyn Moran, Jessica Langlois and Sarah Goranovich.