The behavioral health unit in our hospital was inspected by the Department of Mental Health a couple of weeks ago and one of the things they wanted corrected was covering the electrical outlets in the patient rooms. Although there have not been any incidents regarding those outlets in the hospital, there must have been some in other mental institutions. I know for sure that patients sometimes insert graphite from pencils in the outlets to create a spark so they can light smuggled cigarettes. So since the DMH ordered all outlets covered, the staff could no longer check patient’s vital signs in the rooms. The blood pressure machines do come with rechargeable batteries but the machines we have run out of power pretty quickly if they even recharge at all. Now we have to rouse the patients as early as 5:30 in the morning to come out of their rooms and into the hallway where we can plug in the blood pressure machines. It really hampers the staff by making them unable to finish their tasks if the patients don’t want to get up so early. The best we can do is just mark it as a refusal by the patient to have their vital signs checked since we cannot force them to do it. One solution would be that the hospital provide the workers with better equipment. Given the tough economy, that is not forthcoming. I for one do not like waking patients up very early since that makes them cranky especially when they have nothing to do that early to occupy them. Smoke break doesn’t come until 6:45 and breakfast is at 8 o’clock. Of course there is the option of checking blood pressures with the old fashioned sphygmomanometer and stethoscope.
Taking initiative, I bought my own battery operated wrist blood pressure machine from Harbor Freight Tools, costing $20.00, and the few times I’ve used it, the device was working quiet well. I am now able to check blood pressures of the patients assigned to me at their bedside without having to ask them to get up. I’m still using the hospital’s thermometer and pulse oximeter which don’t need to be plugged in. Sometimes you just have to find your own solutions to obstacles that come your way.
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