The eyes of patient care: Video Monitoring Units

When health care providers cannot be bedside with patients who need extra attention—including those at high risk of falling, those with dementia, or those at risk of elopement—hospitals have traditionally employed room sitters.

Nursing Asssitants Taylor Gomez, Nicholas Gruwell, and Skylar Cuevas stand next to some of the Video Monitoring Units they use in their role at UI Hospitals & Clinics. Not pictured: Marcia Crooks.

In 2018, UI Hospitals & Clinics introduced Video Monitoring Units (VMUs), placing portable cameras in patient rooms to provide live two-way communication between the patient and VMU staff as an extra safety measure.

Initially introduced as a pilot project, VMUs are now located in every location except UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital and psychiatric units. Four VMU team members, all nursing assistants from 6GH, answer questions about technology and teamwork.

How do VMUs improve patient care?  

Taylor Gomez: We’re able to watch patients 24/7, which is incredibly beneficial. Family members are relieved loved ones are being monitored. If a need arises, we contact nursing staff to immediately get them into the patient room. 

Skylar Cuevas: We’re the eyes of patient care. We provide personal verbal redirection to patients. We also monitor other things, like visitors and any potential medication abuse.  

Nick Gruwell: We have a 360-degree view of the room. Our live cameras are detailed enough that we can zoom right into a patient’s wristband to confirm identity. Since we’re always in contact with nurses and nursing staff, it’s a collaborative effort to help patients. 

How is a VMU different than a room sitter? 

Gomez: Units don’t have to pay for the video monitoring unit the same way that they do for sitters, so that’s a big draw for VMU. Also, each member of our team can watch up to 12 patients at a time, versus an in-room sitter who can watch just one. 

Marcia Crooks: VMU has filled a gap between bed alarms and bedside sitters. This can free up personnel to be bedside sitters when one-on-one monitoring is required, such as suicide ideology or fall risks that are not redirectable.  

Gruwell: We tend to watch patients for quite a while, sometimes weeks or months, so we’re really able to build strong patient relationships. 

How do VMU members work together as a team? 

Crooks: VMU employees collaborate and exchange information with the correct team member, either the monitor watching the patient or the rounder placing cameras in rooms.   

Gomez: Our team’s best qualities include communication and patience. We maintain open communication between our own staff and the nursing staff.  

Cuevas: We have great coworkers and a positive work environment. We keep each other engaged and focused. It’s a tight space in our monitoring area and everyone is like family. 

What might surprise people about your unit? 

Gruwell: I think most people would be surprised by the amount of information we handle and all the different tasks we juggle. We can immediately dispatch help if patients or staff are in danger.   

Cuevas: Because we’re not physically present and are focused on multiple people at once, we need to observe each patient’s every little movement and their vital signs so we can promote safety.  

Gomez: VMU is a free service any nurse can request. This role has helped me become very attentive to body language, especially when it comes to our non-verbal patients.  

Crooks: VMU is the only unit in the hospital that is entirely staffed by NAs.