November 21, 2013 | | Comments 2
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Calling all cords

During a recent Joint Commission survey, a question was raised regarding the “length” of nurse call cords (it appears that the surveyor indicated that the end of the cord should be an inch above the finished floor). The Facility Guidelines Institute requires that the call be within reach of a patient on the floor, but there is no specific distance indicated. Now, my personal rule of thumb has always been to try and “hit” a point that is about 3 inches off the finished floor (about the height of your average piece of cove base); this allows access to someone who’s on the floor, but provides enough clearance for mopping the floor (and believe me, those cords can pick up a lot of built-up detergent if you don’t leave enough room). However, if your EVS folks are using microfiber mops, which are a little less poofy (that’s kind of a technical term), then you might be able to have the end of the cord a little closer to the floor. Ultimately this, like countless other topics of conversation we’ve featured here, becomes the function of appropriately managing the involved risks—fallen folks being able to summon help and not having to grab a fistful of sticky call cord to get that help. Of course, if staff are wrapping the cords around the grab bars in the bathroom, that, as they say, is a whole other thing…and not a good one. Oh, and by the way, don’t forget that the cords themselves also represent a cleaning/disinfection challenge—they ain’t so easy to clean—and they really should be done on a pretty regular basis.

Entry Information

Filed Under: The Joint Commission


Steve MacArthur About the Author: Steve MacArthur is a safety consultant with The Greeley Company in Danvers, Mass. He brings more than 30 years of healthcare management and consulting experience to his work with hospitals, physician offices, and ambulatory care facilities across the country. He is the author of HCPro's Hospital Safety Director's Handbook and is contributing editor for Briefings on Hospital Safety. Contact Steve at

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  1. Solid point, Steve! I would note that some state health department rules specifically note, “(Nurse call) stations are to be the pull-cord type with the cord reaching within 6 inches of the floor. The cords shall be located within reach of a patient who has fallen and may not be able to directly reach the switch to summon assistance.’

  2. Unfortunately this standard/code is written very loose on this issue/topic. I do not see any account was made to address how to mitigate cross contamination from when a wet mop is pull under the end of the cord. In most accounts a 24oz mop head can be as thick as 4″ and not too mention those times the toilet overflows onto the floor. Good rule of thumb is 5-6 inches IMO.

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