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Hospitals use colored patient wrist bands to alert staff to specific patient conditions. A survey of Indiana hospitals done in 2008 reported that hospitals were not all using the same color-coding system. When hospitals use different color-coding systems, medical errors can result. One way to prevent errors in hospitals is to standardize common practices. The goal of the recently completed Wrist Band Standardization Project was to develop a standardized color coding system for patient alert systems to be used by hospitals in Northwest Indiana. A team of nursing students from Purdue University Calumet School of Nursing worked in collaboration with St. Anthony Medical Center in Crown Point on this project. The toolkit developed by the team was adapted by the Indiana Patient Safety Coalition and has been implemented in all hospitals throughout Indiana. The standardized color coding is as follows:
Why Hospitals Use Color-coded Wristbands on Patients
Color Coded Wristbands
Wearing a red wristband notifies the hospital staff of allergies they may have to things such as medications, foods, dust, grass, or pets.
Some patients express an end-of-life wish that they would like honored in the event of a cardiac arrest. When a patient is wearing a purple wristband, it alerts hospital staff to check the patient’s medical record for end-of-life directives.
It is important to prevent falls while the patient is in the hospital. When a patient is wearing a yellow wristband, it alerts all hospital staff that the patient needs help walking or getting up.
Many products used in hospitals are made of latex and can cause certain patients to have a severe allergic reaction. When patients are wearing a green wristband, it alerts hospital staff that they have allergies to products containing latex so that non-latex supplies are used.
Some patients have a condition that restricts the use of a certain arm or leg. Patients with this condition wear a pink band on the affected extremity to alert staff to avoid using this limb for blood draws, IV insertions, and other medical procedures.
Please visit the Web site of the Indiana Patient Safety Center—for more information.
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