Code Blue and Other Hospital Codes Explained

When you’re at the hospital there are numerous codes being called over the intercom. Codes and their color allow the trained professionals to be notified that they are needed in a certain area and what to expect upon arriving.

Code Blue/Priority 1

Cardiac Arrest, Respiratory Arrest, sudden or severe drop in blood pressure, trauma alerts, or stroke patients, etc. This can use up a lot of resources on your floor that can last for quite some time and are vital to the positive outcome of the patient. Roles are assigned to help organize the chaos that might occur.

MD: overlooking the code and giving verbal orders to the rest of the staff or procedures like intubation, central line placement, etc.

Nurse: there should be at least 2-3 nurses in a code. One to record and write down what is going on and reminding others of rhythm checks and last times of medications with dosages and one to obtain IV access and medicate the patient.

Pharmacist: There should be a pharmacist to draw up the medications ordered by the MD to assist in proper dosage. Although if they are unable to be at the code, the third RN would assist in drawing up the medication and assisting with the Lifepak/defibrillator.

Respiratory Therapist: One of the many important roles would be airway, oxygenation and ventilation and obtaining arterial blood gases if necessary.

Paramedics/EMTs: If a cardiac arrest occurs outside the hospital setting, they are using their best efforts to bring this patient to the ER for further resources if need be. In the ER setting they are vital for accurate compressions and IV access. As RNs are trained for this it does help to have 2 Paramedics/EMTs to switch off at the 2 minute mark during compressions.

Code Rescue: Patient Clinical Deterioration

This is when the patients vitals or overall condition is deteriorating and more resources are needed to stabilize the situation. This code is made to avoid a code blue from occurring. If immediate interventions aren’t taken this can become a code blue situation.

Code Pink/ Purple: Neonatal and Pediatric Deterioration

These codes are exactly like a code blue but for an infant or child. These codes require the same roles as a code blue and can take lots of time and resources to resuscitate or recover the patient. This can be a very stressful time for the patient’s parents or family so consulting with social worker or pastoral care is recommended.

Code Orange: Unattended Delivery

This situation can be another color depending on the facility. This code represents when a mother has a labor delivery unattended by a physician or medical staff. This can be anywhere in the hospital besides the labor and delivery department. For example the mother could have given birth in her car outside of the emergency lobby and this code pages (over the intercom) the labor and delivery nurses to rush down and stabilize the mother and newborn baby. The emergency department is trained as well to help stabilize the patients until the specialty nurses arrive.

Other codes and colors for important situations like a combative person, non-patient injuries, fire, bomb threat, etc. Every facility has their own protocols and treat each situation with help from their staff. Please be mindful that these codes take up resources and need team work. If you feel your care is being delayed it’s because there are patients who require immediate interventions.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Willowsoul says:

    It’s nice to read that we are all similar no matter what country. However I am jealous with the amount of staff you have at a code blue !!!!

    We use zoll on all wards and lifepak in A&E.

    Have a great day


    1. hippienurse says:

      Yes! That staff is an ideal situation. It’s not always the case. 😹


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