Whiteboards enhance communication for patients, families in ED

You’ve come to the emergency department with a possible broken wrist. After registering, you are led to a curtained bay where you will be seen by a clinician. You think ‘it would be nice to know who will be taking care of me and let my family know where I am and give them some information.’

This communication is possible in the emergency departments at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital and Lawrence Memorial Hospital of Medford through a decidedly low-tech solution: whiteboards.

One small whiteboard is mounted within each of the 25 ED bays at the hospitals. Each board contains basic information that patients may need – such as which bay they are in and the names of their caregivers. A “notes” section enables staff to post needed information related to patient safety. “For example, a patient may have precautions such as ‘nothing by mouth’ or ‘allergic to penicillin,’” said Pamela Duchene, PhD, APRN-BC, vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer at Hallmark Health System. Patients and family members can write on the board as well to communicate with one another and staff members.


Clear plastic covers enable the boards to be wiped clean for the next patient. “Whiteboards are pretty standard throughout the hospital, but EDs have been later adopters because, unlike on an inpatient floor, there is so much turnover in the ED. Our bays can be used several times on a busy evening,” she added.

In addition to patient safety, the whiteboards can help improve patient satisfaction. “Patients better understand what is going on, and they can also make a note of who took care of them while they were here,” said Duchene. “We also find that patients appreciate the Wi-Fi information to help them stay connected while in our care.”



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