Washington hospitals adopting consistent emergency codes

Emergency Management Alert, February 17, 2009

Hospitals in Washington state are adopting new communication safety measures so that no matter what facility healthcare workers are in, a code, such as code blue, means the same emergency is underway.

The changes resulted from a survey that discovered at least eight different codes were used by the state’s hospitals to call for help when a patient’s heart stopped, reported The Spokesman-Review. Officials decided there should be a consistent system throughout the state, so for instance “code blue” means cardiac arrest.

“Clearly this was variation we had to eliminate,” Carol Wagner, vice president of patient safety for the Washington State Hospital Association, told the newspaper. With staff turnover and some healthcare professionals working at more than one hospital, different codes can create confusion. The safety measures will be implemented by October, according to the newspaper.

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