The nurse call bell. Arguably the most hated piece of medical equipment in our professional kit.
Which is a little ironic really, as attending to our patients is our core business.

Here are a few examples for your examination.


Here we see your bog standard call bell. The simplicity of a single red button on a long cord. Wrapped around a bed rail or pinned to a pillow, no instructions necessary.

Nurse! Nurse! There is an app for that.
At the other end of the technological spectrum, some lucky patients can pull out their smart phone and not only call a nurse, but let them know exactly why they are calling.
Lets see….I’d like some meds, and a drink…oh and a pillow fluff. Blip. Blip. Blip.

I really like this one. It captures that quintessential expression of a nurse who is finally about to get their lunch after 7 hours straight without a break.
It’s like:  Bong bong

Simple. Big. Easy to push.
Only I just don’t quite get the whole wearing a nurses cap on top of your motorcycle helmet look.
It looks like the nurse can push their own button which activates a little ‘Answer’ light at the patients end.
Perhaps it buzzes as well.
Nurses buzzing patients.

Check out this RCA call bell right out of the 50’s. Very cool.

Brilliant. Let’s put the nurse call bell right next to the patients controls for their bed.
I just want to raise my head a little…
Oops, that not it. How about this…
Hang on, here we go.
Bzzzz. Bzzzz. Bzzzz.

Nurse 1: Boy, it’s been a quiet shift tonight.
Nurse 2: Yeah, the patients are all still working their way through the call bell operating manuals.

And here is a pretty intimidating buzzer. Push it to save a life. Or get a pan. Whatever.

Of course a particularly useful strategy is to have a wide selection of call bells, so just as your patients get the hang of one you can rotate them around.

Finally, we have this. The IKEA of flat-pack call bells.
You will not get any reprieve. Sleek, sexy. Patients will not be able to resist pushing your buttons. Even if they have absolutely no idea what the blue one with the squiggly line will do.

Be afraid.

16 Responses to “The Nurse Call Bell.”

  1. Our call button is conveniently located on the same panel as the TV control. In fact the bright start who designed it made the button the same size and shape as the TV on button, and located it directly underneath it on the panel.

    • Yep, ours too! Brand new hospital, the most state of the art in country NSW or so they tell us, and they can’t even get the damn call bells right!

  2. Nothing beats the patients favorite: “Hey Nurse!”

  3. I work at an assisted living unit where all the residents wear a “pendant” call bell. They can ring from anywhere, and we have to find them if they’re not in their apartment.

  4. You forgot the personal favorite of most of my (often times confused) patients….the “bang the telemetry box into the side rail until someone comes running” nurse call. A telemetry monitor reading “V-Tach” gets a check every tIme! Thanks for putting this together…it’s nice to see how things used to be! :)

    • I’ve met the patients that know the shake or hit the tele box for V-Tach! It happens rather frequent where I work…. How do they know this stuff???

  5. Yeah, gotta love those patients who press the bell for nothing. And I loved being in the oncology dept, hearing the bell of a patient ring and the two nurses just outside the door of my room talking. “Oh, he can wait” says the first one, continuing her lovely conversation about her vacation in Jamaica. If I hadn’t been trying to sleep, I probably would have enjoyed the descriptive.

    Sometimes, the problem is with the button pusher, but sometimes, it is with the one supposed to hear the call signal. Training required at BOTH ends I would say.

  6. You rang m’lord?

  7. One old-fashioned red button, with a two-way intercom which doesn’t work. This, I think, is suffficient, especially for those patients needing a callbellectomy. Adding more buttons just adds to the temptation to push, and also promotes the idea of nurse-as-waiter.

    Also, the code alarms are safely out of reach of the patients!

  8. Love this…no know cure though for bell fevered patients…in .E.D. ” nurse, I can see that you are all running around like blue arse flies and the doctors are also falling over eah other, or even in the next cubicle, emergency bells are going off, triage is calling out that the trauma patient has just arrived !!! but can you tell me “how long will I have to wait, how long will my test result be back, the CT tech told me 20 min and it’s been 21 minutes now and no one has run into me to give me the results so I can now leave, what was an incredible emergency when I came in is now just plain bloody boring”….”yes my dear, as are you”!!!

  9. My hospital is recently built, with everything state-of-the-art. The RN call bell has 4 buttons: 1 to notify the nurse you need pain meds or have other pressing needs, one to notify you need something to drink, one to notify you need something to eat, and one to notify you need toileting. The first bell rings directly to the nurse’s mobile phone. The other three ring either to the Med tech’s phone or, if the Med tech doesn’t answer, to the clerk’s desk. Not sure how I feel about what I call “the room service” bells, but I like that they go to a phone instead of just bing-ing incessantly.

    • I do have to say this seems very efficient. Like you said,no ringing call lights all shift. And this acknowledges their need right away even if you can’t get to it right that second you can at least let them know when, like in 2-3 minutes. Or ,you may ask a fellow co worker for assistance and let the patient know a different nurse will come to assist them if that’s ok. Or they could take over where you are until you get back. I’ve helped many co workers this way and theyve helped me. It really benefits the patient.and promotes teamwork.

  10. The last nurse call button station is quite logic and widespread in Europe, the main bell is on the patient bed, this station is just hanging in the entrance of every room in a hospital.

    RED: Nurse bell or if GREEN is activated: Emergency Bell (Yelping Sound on the ward)

    GREEN: Nurse is in the room, so you can hear and see other bells ringing and colleauges know where you are and in some hospitals you can directly speak to the patients pressing green twice. It also turns the bell of and if you press RED with GREEN there is the emergency bell

    YELLOW nurse is in the room with a doctor (medical rounds e.g.) so you don’t hear but see the bell of other patients in the room and you can see where the doctor is

    BLUE: CPR button, which will automaticly be transfered to another ward

  11. When my daughter was hospitalized, the nurse call button was on the TV remote! Dumb idea all around, but especially in Pediatrics!!!

    • I work as a pediatric nurse and the call bell is right above all the TV buttons and I can’t tell you how many we get that are mistakes because the kids are trying to change the channel!! And lets be realistic when you put a big red button with morning yellow and brown buttons and you are a kid what button are you going to push (hint: it’s NOT the boring ones:-)

  12. At the satellite dialysis unit I work at we have the very top pic (the old school no-electricity-required press the top bell). At our inpatient dialysis unit, yep, the call bell is right next to the tv button…

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