SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Cox South is introducing a new way to keep staff safe: panic buttons.

These buttons are intended to help with safety in high risk areas, like the emergency room.

Staff wear the button like a badge and press it for help if they are in a violent situation with a patient.

Keith Mathis, assistant director at the Cox South Emergency Room, was part of the team that brought the idea to the hospital.

“When a staff member is needing assistance, if they feel threatened, they can press this button and it lets all the staff in the area, as well as security, know that they need help and exactly where they are in the department so we know where to go to help them,” Mathis said.  

When the button is pressed, an alarm sounds at the nurses’ station, as well as other indicators of a staff member needing help. 

“The lights over the room start blinking a red, white and blue pattern,” Mathis said. “Pop-ups happen on the computers in the area. Nursing staff can go to that room immediately for immediate help.”

As nurses around the area respond to the alarm, security is immediately notified and is able to pinpoint the location of the person wearing the button. 
Before the trial, it would take longer for security to arrive. 
“What ended up happening, a lot of times, was backing out of the room, if you could, and yelling, ‘Hey call security! Call security! I need help in here,’ and that takes a lot of time,” Mathis said.

In addition to decreasing the amount of time it takes for security to respond, the hospital also hopes the buttons will decrease worker’s comp claims as well as increasing how safe staff feels while at work.

“Safety is becoming a huge problem in healthcare,” Mathis said. “The number of attacks and threats and violence against healthcare workers is on the rise. I’ve seen the increase and there’s a host of problems causing it. We’ve got the opioid crisis that brings in a lot of behavioral health issues the lack of support for behavioral health patients. They don’t have anywhere else to go they end up here. These are patients that tend to be more violent.”

Mathis says about 300 Cox Emergency Department staff are trying out the panic button.