Hospital employees and families rely on signs outside patient rooms to provide critical information. Some are isolation signs, designed to convey the level of precaution needed to prevent the spread of infection. Others indicate whether a patient has a latex allergy or may be at risk for falling.

In our current hospital, many of these signs are made by the care team and taped to a patient’s room door or adjacent wall. Their placement or appearance is not standardized, varying from floor to floor, even from room to room. In our new hospital, there will be one standard sign with universal symbols.

Standardized signs have several advantages. Since care team members always know where to look for the information they need, standardized signs save employees time. Minimal training is needed, even when employees work on more than one floor. As an added bonus, employees no longer need to spend time making signs. Standardized signs also can help ensure compliance by both visitors and employees when it comes to hand-washing and other precautions. In turn, safety for everyone is enhanced.

Finding the right solution involved teamwork among doctors, nurses, and other staff members. Recognizing that standardization was critical, employees also wanted the ability to customize signs to meet the needs of our families and employees.  

Each new isolation sign is 8½ x 15 inches. The top of each sign will have a header, or horizontal bar, that matches the color of that level in our new hospital. Displayed in the header will be the room number in text and Braille representation. Below the header will be a space for displaying the patient’s name. The rest of the front of the sign contains a large clear acrylic area. Behind the clear panel, members of the care team will display isolation warning signs as needed. The isolation signage will be the same for every level in our new hospital.

But the clear display space is only one integral component of the sign system. The front acrylic panel is hinged. When it is pulled forward and downward, the space inside reveals 10 sliding tabs. Each tab slides horizontally, revealing a smaller sign. The small signs measure about 2 inches by 2 inches; each one is a different color matching the corresponding level in the new hospital. Each tab also displays a unique icon representing a different need, request, or warning. For example, one tab displays a food tray overlapped with the universal “no” symbol for prohibition. This tells the food and nutrition staff that the food tray should be delivered to the nurses’ station instead of to the patient. These signs can be scanned quickly, and they’re easy for non-native speakers to understand.

Custom graphics were incorporated on some tabs. For example, a picture of Perky, our children’s hospital mascot, tells the care team that extra comfort is needed, which may mean getting help from a child life specialist. Members of the care team can display as many tabs as needed to reflect the patient’s condition. The entire sign is easy to clean for infection control.

Our innovative signs are colorful and easy to read. More importantly, they will save time and help keep our patients safe.