Too much noise from hospital alarms poses risk for patients

Posted: November 21, 2013 in Uncategorized
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If you have audible alarms to indicate patient vitals or life-threatening status, you may want to consider if you are causing more harm than good. If you do, you may also agree that most of these annoying noises are simply false alarms and most of the staff assigned to monitor these alarms have become used to the constant chirping, ringing, and honking, that they don’t even notice them as often as they should. This is termed “alarm fatigue.” Nurses have been reported to turn down the volume on the devices, shutting them off or simply ignoring them. This can be potentially dangerous for the patient and negates the purpose of the machinery.

Recently, the Joint Commission directed facilities to make alarm safety a top priority or risk losing accreditation. A new rule would identify staff that has the responsibility and sole authority to turn off any alarms. During a 3 ½ year investigation, the Joint Commission received reports of 98 alarm-related incidents which included 80 deaths resulting from the ignoring or muting of the alarms.

With technological advancement, more machinery is being brought online with various styles of alarms that indicate a variety of human conditions that are monitored for patients. As the number of potential alarms increase, it is imperative that we begin to understand the effects of “alarm fatigue” and how we can deal with it. One report conducted at an Intensive Care Unit counted 771 alarms per bed, per day. Of those, 80% of the alarms were discounted as low-priority conditions.

More information and studies were made available in this article that indicated locations, times, and situations. How we address the effects of “alarm fatigue” and false alarms is an important topic that should not be ignored or muted. Our patients lives are at stake.


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