CADILLAC — At the end of the rainbow, you’re supposed to find a pot of gold. But at Munson Hospital in Cadillac, where color-based codes came to an end recently, you’ll find clarity.
“Code black,‘ “code orange,‘ “code blue‘ are all going away.
Instead, people will be saying exactly what they mean. Munson is embracing plain-language codes.
“Plain language is the way to go,‘ said Joanna Benchley, regional quality director for Munson.
When health systems first adopted the color-code system, announcing a “code orange‘ (chemical spill) was supposed to eliminate fear and anxiety for patients and visitors.
But if you’ve ever been in the hospital when a “code black‘ is called and immediately pictured whatever worst-case scenario from a TV medical drama that first came to your mind, then you know that the color-code system isn’t designed to assuage your anxiety.
“It actually increases it because nobody understood what that meant,‘ Benchley said.
With the change, health care workers will be announcing emergency codes using simpler terms; the old Code Orange, which would let hospital workers know that there’d been a chemical spill in the building, will now be paged as “Security Alert / Chemical Spill.‘
“Calling codes in plain English is a demonstrated best practice at many top organizations known for their outstanding safety efforts,‘ said John Bolde, system director of safety and security, according to a news release. “Identifying a code by a color only informs our staff — who already know our codes. It’s vital that our patients and visitors also be aware of potential safety risks.‘
And plain language codes are also better for the staff.
“It eliminates that confusion for providers and staff,‘ Benchley said.
The process of switching to plain-language codes has taken months, and staff have received educational models, with new posters in the departments as well as cheat sheets that remind them how to respond to each scenario.
The Cadillac Hospital is the second Munson hospital to switch to plain language emergency codes. Munson Medical Center in Traverse City switched over in early November and the rest of the system’s hospitals are expected to follow suit.