CPR First Aid

Code Blue: Decoding Medical Codes

Oftentimes when we watch a television show or movie in a medical setting, we come across scenes where nurses and doctors are shouting certain colour codes. Even if we don’t exactly know what they mean, the rush of action signifies that something important is happening.

Now though, we have an opportunity to decode several of these coloured passwords that seem to signify something important and push people to medical action.

In this article, we’ll be looking at code blue. We’ll investigate what the colour blue means in the hospital setting, as well as what medical personnel would do when this code is called. 

What Are Emergency Colour Codes in Hospitals?

Before we dive into specific colours, let’s first come to a better understanding of what emergency colour codes in hospitals are.

Understanding emergency hospital color codes precedes discussing specific colors.

What Are They For?

These emergency codes were created by hospitals in hopes of standardising certain events throughout all of their trained personnel. It is their hope that the simplified codes will immediately bring about certain emergency situations or occurrences.

Afterwards, the training should kick in, spurring this hospital personnel into the correct actions to handle the situation.

This simplified way of communication results in a  quick and efficient response from medical personnel.

In addition, these codes were also made so as to not alarm or cause any panic from the visitors and patients.

These codes can be sent out via the intercom or through the pagers that doctors carry.

Why Are They Important?

Hospitals are never short on people. There is always someone seeking treatment or running some tests. That is why, when an emergency takes place, it needs to be handled well by the people in charge. The bustling people cannot distract personnel from attending to the emergency.

Add to this the fact that doctors, nurses, and other personnel are constantly moving about the hospital. The codes serve as an easy and effective way to get everyone’s attention, divulge essential information, and push those people to remember their training and handle the situation.

Aside from providing medical care, it is also the duty of the people at the hospital to keep everyone safe.

Hospitals bustling, emergencies demand adept handling by authorities.

On Code Blue

Now let’s get to decoding some of these emergency codes used in hospitals. The most common one heard in shows and movies is the blue alert.

This code doesn’t pertain to any one specific condition. Instead, this code is meant to signify that there is a medical emergency currently happening or that a patient is in critical condition.

When It Is Used?

There are a wide array of situations and conditions wherein this code can be used. For instance, if a patient is experiencing a cardiac arrest, a heart attack, stroke, and drastic changes in blood pressure.

Other reasons include:

  • Chest pains
  • Changes in the mental state of a patient
  • Changes in a patient that could be troublesome or dangerous
  • Patients fainting
  • Critical conditions
  • A lack of oxygen

These are only a few situations that necessitate the usage of this coloured emergency code. The reasons may change between hospitals, as they are largely able to define what each emergency code means and what it covers.

Different Types of Code Blues

Since hospitals have free reign to assign what codes mean, some hospitals have elected to create sub-categories for their codes. We’ll cover some of them now. 

For starters, the original blue code is usually for adult patients in an emergency.

Then, we also have the paediatric code of the same colour. This code is used for child patients undergoing an emergency. It also dictates that the patient should not be moved.

Finally is the neonate variant. This code pertains to infants, with the same warning that they should not be moved.

Again, these are only examples of blue code variants. These change from hospital to hospital. If you work in a hospital, it’s best to familiarise yourself with their practices.

What Happens When This Code is Called?

In some cases, this code is easily called out with a press of a button. It can also be done via the phone when a specific phone number is dialled. Finally, it can be called out through the intercom or sent to a doctor’s pager.

When this blue alert is called, a team is usually prepared to cater to the situation. This team is usually composed of doctors, nurses, therapists, and possibly even pharmacists. They have been specifically trained to attend to these emergency situations.

Code easily triggered by button press, phone call, intercom, or doctor's pager.

Considerations For Actions

Usually, a doctor takes charge of the situation. However, if the code is called and the patient is not breathing, CPR is administered by whoever made the call or who is present. Automated External Defibrillators (AED) follow closely behind the CPR process.

If the patient is having a hard time breathing, then intubation methods must be applied in order to open up the pathway of victims and help them breathe clearer once more.

Finally, various medications can be applied depending on what the patient is going through. These could be for heart problems or even to ease or improve their breathing as well.

Increasing the Effectiveness of This Code

While these codes were established in order to ensure a better response time and handle the people in the hospital better, concerns have been raised as to the effectiveness of the code.

The ability to quickly respond to called upon codes is a new skill that must be trained and practised. Unfortunately, it does not come naturally to people who are already saddled with loads of critical responsibilities.

That is why it is important to train the responding team. Several hospitals have set up simulations that help these teams practice their crucial response. In addition, it helps put them in a readied state of mind, in which they can compartmentalise their responsibilities and handle what is urgent.

An Overview of Other Codes

Now that we’re well-acquainted with the blue alert, let’s take a brief look at what other codes may mean and why they are important.

Code Red

For this code, they lean heavily on what the colour is implying. This code is used if there is a fire or smoke emanating from the hospital. When this code is called, people and patients are usually evacuated from the hospital.

Code Orange

Code orange is quite dangerous as well. It pertains to when dangerous and hazardous materials are present. These can include spills from certain chemicals, contaminants, radioactive material, and many more. Typically, hazmat suits are needed when this code is called.

Just like code red, code orange will require people within the hospital to be evacuated to escape the dangerous materials.

Code Yellow

Finally comes code yellow. This code is used when there is an internal emergency in the hospital. This could be anything from a missing patient, a gunman, or even a bomb threat in the hospital. Procedures largely vary depending on the emergency.

One Thing to Understand

We hope that the information we have provided on code blue will satiate your curiosity about what these codes mean. 

If you are in the hospital for a procedure or are visiting, the one thing to understand is that these codes were made with patients and visitors alike. It is the hospital’s way of taking greater care of everyone there.

Similar to the immediate response required when codes are used, everyone will also benefit if they exercise this same level of medical knowledge and response. A medical emergency is best responded to with various first aid practices. There are many ways to learn these practices like selecting a first aid course to take. The HLTAID011 Provide First Aid course provides an array of skills and knowledge that will for a strong base for emergency response. There is also HLTAID009 Provide Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation is another viable course focused on the successful delivery of CPR among other useful things.  

Learn more about first aid via CPR First Aid’s Liverpool course.

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