Is the presence lamp still useful ?

As old as the world

The incandescent light bulb was invented around 1879. A few years later, it was used for the first time in hospitals, in order to make the nursing staff aware of a distress situation. Then, it evolved to notify the presence of a member of the nursing staff in the room. Today, in almost every hospital in the world, the presence lamp is still installed and offers these two main functions (alarm in the room and presence in the room). Thanks to the modernization of the nurse call systems, additional functions have been added, for example the visualization of rea-alarms, service alarms or the integration of the visualization of fire alarms. 

However, two questions need to be asked:  

  1. Is the very hospital-like appearance of the presence lamp desired in the field of nursing homes ?  

  2. What is the purpose of a presence lamp in the 21st century?

“Hospital feeling”

The vast majority of nursing homes do not want to look like a hospital. This is despite the trend of more and more medically demanding cases. Indeed, the main wish is to recreate a pleasant, reassuring and aesthetic atmosphere. A cocoon that allows each resident to feel "at home". The presence lamp as we know it does not contribute to this objective, just like the displays in the corridors or the shrill beeps of alarms that sound everywhere in the building. 

The evolution of communication processes

If we look at the needs that the presence lamp meets today, we can see that three cases of use are covered: 

  1. Seeing that there is an alarm in a room

  2. Find a colleague by seeing that there is a presence in a room

  3. Avoiding to enter a room if a care is in progress

In the last century, there was no other way to "see" where an alarm was in progress. However, with new digital technologies, resident alarms are transmitted directly to caregivers' smartphones. The alarm is transmitted directly to the right people. In addition, with the wireless nurse call solutions on the market, alarms are no longer restricted to the room. It no longer makes sense to display it above the door of a room. 

 For the second case, the question is "why do I want to find a colleague"? In 99% of the cases, it is to ask a question. So it's not about finding someone, but about being able to communicate with someone. Thanks to the modern smartphones that the care staff carries with them, they can, in 2 clicks, call the person who is best able to answer their question. And all this without having to go anywhere. The time saving is considerable! 

Concerning the access to the room when a care is in progress, it is true that without a presence lamp, it is not possible to know in advance that the resident is likely to be in an embarrassing dress or posture. However, since the idea of most nursing homes is to create a "home" for the residents, it seems normal to act like at "home". That is, simply knock on the door and ask if you can come in! As simple as that...and so much more humane. 


So what to do?  

When building a modern nursing home, it seems appropriate to remove the presence lamps from the planning and work with modern digital tools. The wiring and therefore the costs are reduced and the aesthetics improved. When renovating a nursing home or changing the nurse call system in an existing building, the presence lamps can be removed (provide covers). In some cases, the cable channels can be reused for other purposes (WLAN, etc.). (Note: In Germany and Austria, the installation of presence lamps is mandatory, because of a hospital standard from the last century that also applies to nursing homes). 


In summary, the presence lamp has been very useful for decades, because there was no other way to communicate. Thanks to wireless technologies and especially smartphones, it is no longer necessary to use them. Not only because it has become totally obsolete, but also because it is much more efficient to work in a more modern and digital way! 

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