Patient Room Numbering System

Q: In our hospital the nurses found the architectural room numbers too confusing and wanted all patient care rooms to be in numerical order, so about 15 years ago they inserted paper numbers under the placards (for example one room will be C159 with an insert of 110). What are the codes for room numbers and labeling? Where can I find references?

A: The Life Safety Code does not provide much direction on room numbering. But NFPA 99-2012 section 5.1.11.2.1 does say medical gas shutoff valves must be identified (i.e. labeled) with the room that they serve. So, make sure the room numbers on the door match up with the room numbers on the labels for the medical gas shutoff valves.

If you are saying each room has two different numbering systems marked on the door, then that is certainly confusing to an outsider and would likely lead to a finding by a surveyor.

Other than that, I suggest you check with your state or local AHJs to determine if they have any requirements concerning this issue.

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UPDATE: After this posting was published, I received the following reply from a reader:

In addition to the Medical Gas references, just a quick friendly comment to supplement the post regarding Patient Room Numbering, at least in the State of Florida: NFPA 99-2012 section 7.3.3.1 and 7.4.3.1 Nurse Call Systems; and FGI Guidelines 2.1-8.3.7 Call Systems, all address the issue of communication of patient staff calls for assistance and information, medical device alarms, and patient safety and security alarms. The code requires annunciation of each call in several locations including the nursing station of the associated nursing unit. If the staff must learn alternative room numbers that are not annunciated over the system, this will most definitely generate a survey deficiency that will need to be corrected immediately. It is best practice for both the design professionals preparing the original plans, the life safety officer and/or consultant surveying the facility, and the AHJ reviewing plans and/or conducting regular surveys to require that the physical wayfinding room/bed location numbers posted agree with the Nurse Call System annunciation. 

While I agree with the reader’s comment, it is important to understand that any finding by a surveyor would be based on an interpretation of NFPA 99-2012, section 7.3.3.1, as there is no specific standard that requires the nurse call annunciation to agree with the actual room numbers. Authorities are permitted to make this interpretation based on section 4.6.1.1 of the 2012 Life Safety Code.