Ever been hospitalized? Or know someone who has? Chances are you have. You’ve probably then spoken to a nurse’s station at one point. There you watched the nurses running about non-stop, performing essential and important tasks which included answering your questions and concerns.

We’re covering this important area today, from what it is, why it’s essential, the different layouts, and how to properly equip this core of hospital life with the right computer system.  

What is a Nursing Station?

The nurses or nursing station is the primary work area for nursing care activities in hospitals or long-term care facilities like psych wards. Nurses and other healthcare staff are usually found here when not working directly with patients. Patient care units like the ICU usually have a nursing station.  

Staffing the Nursing Station

Unsurprisingly, nurses are the most common medical personnel found at a nursing station. Others include their support staff like CNA, LVNs, and aids. Providers may also be found working around the nursing station especially in their unit. Cardiologists will be working in the cardiac care unit nursing station, while intensivists are at just about every hospital nursing station due to their broad skill set. 

Typical activities found around the nursing station include: 

  • Inquiries, information and referrals – Greet visitors, direct them to patients, etc. 
  • Administrative duties – Handle calls, process documentation. This includes wiping down countertops, computer equipment, etc., to maintain cleanliness and reduce the risk of hospital-acquired infections (HAI).   
  • Chart processing and management – Update patients records both electronic (that is, EMR) and paper ones. 
  • Patient monitoring – keeping track of breathing, heart beats, etc., remotely through telemedicine.
  • Medication preparation – sleep aids, pain killers, etc.

Nursing Station Layouts

The nursing station plays a central role in most medical units since so much activity is done at it. This makes its layout important. Nursing stations are usually divided into two designs.

Centralized Nursing Station

This is the most common design. Also called the “Hub and Spoke” model, the nursing station is located in the middle of the unit. 

There are various regulations that govern this design. In California, each station can handle no more than 60 beds, with the longest distance to the furthest bed being no more than 150 ft. 

The centralized plan allows staff to view and reach surrounding patient rooms and areas with minimal effort. Nurses can interact with each other, providers, and the public readily. This keeps everyone involved well-informed of situations like patient care and allows opportunities like mentoring of new staff members.

Equipment that can be found at a centralized nursing station include: 

  • A counter and desk for the nurses to greet visitors, patients, as well as perform their various duties.
  • Office equipment like chairs, stools, paper, telephones, printers, and filing cabinets.
  • Medical carts. Depending on the unit, these could be anesthesia carts, crash carts (for emergency cardiac or respiratory resuscitation), or isolation carts (for items that must be kept sterile until used). 
  • Defibrillators
  • Narcotic cabinets
  • Workstation on Wheels 

The area behind the counter is, unsurprisingly, limited to healthcare staff. 

Two noteworthy features are located at a nursing station. 

  • The “master station” is a special phone system usually located at the nurse station. Using it, nurses can track calls, prioritize them, check call status, as well as see room numbers. It is posited to be out of the seeing and hearing range of patients.
  • The patient whiteboard located behind the nurses station is either a large whiteboard or, more often today, a massive LCD screen. On it, nurses jot down any information they or providers will need quick access to. Examples include a patient’s name, room number, diagnosis, assigned RNs, vitals, or test information. 

Smaller versions of nurse’s whiteboards can be found inside patient rooms, an operating room, or an emergency room.

Decentralized Nursing Station

Decentralized nurse stations are desks usually located in hallways or other areas out of a view of a centralized nurse station. Alcoves throughout the patient wings of a unit is an example. 

Many decentralized nursing stations are placed between two patient rooms. This allows those  stationed there to keep a constant eye on their charges and quickly reach them. 

Decentralized nursing stations are not as well-equipped as the centralized nursing station. Also nurses there report feeling more isolated than their peers working at the central nurse station, with reduced perceptions of teamwork and communication.  

Interesting Fact – Enclosed or Open Controversy

Most nursing stations are open; that is, there are no physical barriers between the nurses, visitors, and patients. 

This is not necessarily true for nurse stations in behavioral healthcare like the psychiatric unit or ward. Nurses working there report a high rate of on-the-job injuries from assaults by patients jumping over the desk. Workflow is also disrupted as such patients reach across the desk and interfere with the nurses’ work.

Many hospitals have enclosed such affected nurse stations with physical barriers like plexiglass. There is concern, though, that these barriers send a message to patients and their family members that they’re “dangerous” or “criminal.” The barriers may also make it harder for nurses to keep an eye on patients in their rooms as well as communicate through the barrier. 

The debate between staff safety and patient treatment is still ongoing. Currently, each state regulates if the unit is closed or open.

Best Features for Nursing Station Computers

The hospital setting affects equipment like computers in ways off-the-shelf computers are just not designed to handle (example: constant cleaning, 24/7 use). Healthcare IT (HIT), when tasked to equip the nursing station, look for the following features:

  • Fanless Design – Visitors and medical personnel are constantly coming in and out of the unit, with many stopping by the nursing station to check in, get information, etc. This means they could be trekking in airborne pathogens. All-in-one computers with fanless design keep themselves cool without circulating air and out of their systems. This prevents the spread of those pathogens. They’re also silent which gives nearby patients their much-needed rest.
  • IP65 Sealed – Nurses and their support staff make sure the nursing station is kept clean and disinfected as much as possible. This is especially true for high touchpoint surfaces like computer touch screens. To prevent water and harsh hospital-grade disinfectants from getting into the PCs, they should be verified as rated IP65 sealed, especially the front bezels. 
  • Integrated security – Nurses at the nursing station constantly deal with patient records either through EMR or paper files. Keeping those records private and secure is of utmost importance especially since the enactment of HIPAA. Computers used at the nursing station like windows business tablets can be kept secure by features like RFID readers, smart cards, or fingerprint readers. This way only authorized personnel have access to records. 

Closing Comments

The nursing station is, to many, the heart and soul of hospitals. It is here visitors check in to see loved ones, medical personnel meet to discuss patient care, and one of the last sights seen by patients as they’re wheeled out to go home. So it’s important the nursing station, from its design to the computers used by the nurses, be the right one for this important role.

If your healthcare group is interested in which enterprise grade computers are right for your hospital nursing stations, contact a representative from Cybernet. 

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