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15 Hospital Codes Decoded Because Staying At A Hospital Can Be Scary

Having a baby often means spending multiple days in a hospital room, away from home, and subject to lots of noises and foreign sounding medical terminology. But among all of the specific wording that doctors toss out when referring to birth, there are also the many hospital codes and what they mean. Obviously, a new parent's worse nightmare is to hear a code over the hospital's loudspeaker and learn that it pertains to them or their baby, so it's helpful to know what these hospital codes mean, even if it doesn't make it any less scary to hear them.

The most common hospital codes that most people are familiar with are code red for fire or code blue for cardiac arrest since they're commonly heard in TV and movies, but the reality is that there are so many other hospital codes that are important, especially when someone is staying in the hospital after having a baby.

New parents should be aware of the different hospital codes they might hear over the hospital’s PA system so that they can be better informed and less likely to worry should they hear the code and then see a team of doctors or nurses rushing through the hall.

These hospital codes are just some of the many that parents might hear in the hospital, but they are the most common and probably the most important to note. But the point is, knowing and remembering them will help ease new parents’ minds quite a bit when it comes time to have a baby.

15 Code Red: Fire

This is probably one of the most important codes to know because while it has little to do with the patient's baby or the new mom herself, it can be the difference between getting out of the hospital alive and getting stuck on the same floor as a fire. It's probably a more obvious hospital code to remember since red is also the color of fire, but that's why it works and why it's easier to remember.

There are tons of different hospital codes, so being able to link the color code with its meaning quickly is so important for everyone's safety. It's always useful when the hospital code is also self-explanatory, especially when no patient can rightfully remember each important hospital code there is.

14 Code Blue: Cardiac Arrest

When a doctor or nurse is calling out “code blue” or sounding over the hospital’s PA system that there is a code blue currently happening at the hospital, they are referring to cardiac arrest or failure in a patient--this is, of course, because it’s a lot less alarming than hearing a team of healthcare professionals shout out that someone’s heart has stopped or slowed down.

Hospitals are scary enough without worrying about the different scary hospital codes being called out every hour. Knowing what code blue means is important for new parents to be aware of whether or not it would pertain to their new baby and for their partner or family members to be aware of it in case something happens to the new mom after she gives birth. Of course, neither is an ideal situation, but because of the severity of a code blue, it’s important for everyone to be familiar with its meaning.

13 Code Green: Evacuation

A mandatory evacuation of the hospital can mean any number of things. There might be an unwanted intruder, a gas leak, or even an impending storm that might make it impossible for the hospital’s resources to be of used to anyone.

That being said, knowing that an evacuation is typically referred to as a “code green” can help new parents get themselves and their new babies out of the hospital in a calm and timely manner, as opposed to waiting until everyone else is thrown into a frenzy and they have to work through the crowds of patients and staff to get out of the facility. A code green might result in being able to return quickly after the situation is under control, but it’s important to know in case the threat level requiring evacuation is serious.

12 Code Yellow: Missing Patient

If a patient is missing, it affects almost everyone else, so knowing about the meaning behind a “code yellow” is still important, even if it doesn’t directly pertain to a new parent or their baby. Knowing that a patient is missing could mean that, if the new mom or dad know it too, they can keep their eyes out for a wandering patient instead of worrying about a strange person they might come across.

In some cases, a missing patient doesn’t have to mean a lost patient loitering on a floor where their room is not, but instead it could mean that a patient who isn’t of sound mind might be wandering around, in need of one of the staff members to come to their aid immediately.

11 Code Amber: Missing or Abducted Infant or Child

An “amber alert” might be the most important hospital code for a new mom or dad to make note of. Mostly because, in the worst case scenario, it could be the code they need to call out themselves at first realization that their own child is missing.

Also, when they hear the code announced over the hospital’s speakers, they will know to make sure their baby is safe and accounted for, while they keep their eyes out for someone scurrying down the hall with a baby they shouldn’t be taking anywhere, let alone out of the hospital. Of course, in these situations, the moms or dads should seek out security right away, but it’s still always useful to be knowledgeable of the amber alert hospital code.

10 Code Black: Bomb Threat

A bomb threat probably isn’t too likely to occur when staying at a hospital, for however long or short period of time, but it’s still useful to know that “code black” refers to just that. It isn’t a code related to a medical emergency of one patient, but it’s a hospital code that affects each and every patient and staff member in the hospital.

Sometimes knowing a hospital code like this could mean panic among the patients, but it’s also important so that they know to be aware and be ready for an evacuation as soon as a nurse tells them that it might be the plan. In the case of a bomb threat in a hospital, “code black” will likely be heard over the speakers, and a nurse or other high ranking staff member will be there to assist patients in evacuating the hospital.

9 Code White: Aggression

A code white for aggression in a hospital environment could mean either a physically aggressive individual on the grounds or even a verbally aggressive one. Either way, they could be a disruptive or destructive force and should be known of immediately.

Luckily, most healthcare professionals are trained in the way of defusing emotional outbursts and verbal confrontations in the hospital hallways, and there is always security and law enforcement officials close by to handle any physical altercations or threats that might arise as a result of this sort of aggressive behavior done by either patients or visitors.

Another way a “code white” may be in effect is if hospital staff themselves are being disruptive toward each other, in which case they should be trained to deal with conflict resolution in a timely and professional manner once things escalate.

8 First Code Pink: General Pediatric Emergency

While a “code pink” can refer strictly to a cardiac emergency in a little one, it can also be used to refer to a general emergency in the pediatric area of medicine. This could mean an emergency with an infant or even a small child, but either way, it is a useful code when referring to a medical emergency where more doctors and nurses are needed, without needing to announce what the exact ailment is.

Either way, a parent is sure to worry and want to check on their own child right away, being that the “code pink” is specific to children and could mean any number of things. Of course, it can refer to a cardiac emergency in a child or infant, but could also mean that breathing assistance is needed or that a child’s behavior simply warrants backup, so to speak.

7 Code Orange: External Disaster

An external disaster can refer to any number of things happening outside of the hospital that warrant a warning or notice to all hospital patients and personnel. This could be a situation of the elements, like an impending tornado or flood, or even something as serious as a terrorist attack that, even if it is hundreds of miles from the hospital’s location, warrants being announced to the people of the hospital.

If the external disaster happens to be something that directly affects the hospital, like a hurricane or something similarly destructive, the patients and staff will be notified on what to do and be able to act accordingly, likely with more than enough time to do so in an orderly manner.

In fact, because it’s a code so seldom heard in hospitals, patients likely won’t remember its meaning and will rely on the assistance of the hospital staff regardless.

6 Code Brown: Hazardous Spill

When there is a “code brown”, referring to a hazardous spill somewhere in the hospital, it’s important for the hospital staff to be notified right away. Hazardous material is most likely that of human biproducts, and less likely some type of corrosive mixture.

While some spills can be cleaned up with simple gloves and anti-bacterial solutions, others require much more care and special attention which can be assisted with after the hospital staff member announces the code over the hospital’s PA system.

Hazardous chemical spills should be left for trained personnel to clean up to avoid any chemical burns or accidental ingestion and be reported right away. Whether it is the mess of a chemical or of something more obvious like blood, a “code brown” is plenty necessary.

But even if the patient isn’t familiar with the code, it isn't one to hear over the loudspeaker and be immediately worried about regardless.

5 Code Silver: Hospital Lockdown

Obviously, it’s important to know when the hospital might go into “lockdown” mode. This is when patients are encouraged to stay in their respective rooms with the doors tightly shut, waiting for further instructions from hospital officials. At the same time, the likelihood of a hospital going on lockdown is pretty slim.

In the case of an emergency hospital lockdown, there might be an unwanted intruder on the campus of the hospital, or it could even be because of another code, like code white, which referred to aggression by someone in the hospital.

In most cases, a code silver will simply mean that for the safety and well-being of the patients and staff, a temporary lockdown will be ordered for a short period of time. And in these cases, trained officials end up taking hold of the situation sooner rather than later.

4 2nd Code Pink: Cardiac Arrest – Infant/Child

Another incredibly important code for all parents staying in the hospital to be aware of is “code pink”, which refers to cardiac arrest but this time, in the pediatric department. Most parents don't have to worry about this code unless they know their child will be born with heart problems.

Of course, there is always a certain level of worry and stress that comes along with hearing this code bellowed over the speakers as a hospital announcement, but it’s an easier way to identify what kind of patients are suffering from which ailments, as opposed to announcing that an infant or child is suffering from cardiac arrest somewhere in the hospital.

Regardless of whether or not a parent is confident of their baby’s health, hearing “code pink” is never easy and always elicits the kind of worry that one would expect from any parent, new and experienced alike.

3 Code Purple: Hostage Taking

Hearing a “code purple” sound over the speakers, if the patient knows what it means, is a scary thing to hear. Since it means that somewhere in the hospital, there is a hostage being taken control of, it’s easy to worry and want to flee as soon as they hear the announcement of the code.

But since it’s also an extremely delicate situation, the best thing to do, for the safety of everyone, is to stay put until given further instructions.

The important thing to remember is that someone announced the code, meaning that someone in charge knows of the situation and is obviously able to get help to end the situation. It might not happen immediately, but a code purple doesn’t have to mean a scary ending.

2 Code Grey: Combative Person

In a hospital, anyone can become a volatile or hostile person at the drop of a hat. It is an emotional place where lives hang in the balance or are lost every single day and, understandably, emotions rise and tempers flair up. So, coming in contact with a combative person, whether they be a patient, a patient’s family member, or even a visitor, isn't that uncommon.

Hearing a “code grey” announcement over the hospital speakers, though, simply means that the situation requires more staff to calm the altercation down or a security guard to better assess the combative person.

It isn't a cause for alarm, but instead almost a reassurance that the situation is known and will be under control shortly, even if that means escorting visitors from the hospital grounds.

1 Code Triage: Internal Or External Disaster

While a “code orange” and a “code silver” both refer to disasters in or around or at the very least pertaining to, the hospital, a “code triage” encompasses both and is just another way, without the hospital color code, to announce such things in a hospital setting.

When a “code triage” sounds over the speaker system, it simply means that there is either an internal or external problem regarding the hospital or its patients that require the proper officials to seek out the problem and solution immediately.

It isn't a code meant to alarm patients or to tell patients to leave the comfort and safety of their hospital rooms, but knowing the meaning of codes like this can help make them feel at least a little more at ease when staying in a hospital.

Sources: CovenentHealth.ca, FHA.org, JointCommission.org

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