Essay on Alarm Fatigue

1647 Words May 19th, 2014 7 Pages
Alarm Fatigue Alarm fatigue is a growing national problem within the health care industry that links medical technology as a serious hazard that poses a significant threat to patient safety within hospitals across the country. Alarm fatigue occurs when nurses encounter an overwhelming amount of alarms thus becoming desensitized to the firing alarms. Alarm desensitization is a multifaceted issue that is related to the number of alarming medical devices, a high false alarm rate, and the lack of alarm standardization in hospitals today (Cvach, 2012). Desensitization can lead to delayed response times, alarms silenced or turned off, or alarms adjusted to unsafe limits, which can create a dangerous situation for the patient. Alarm fatigue …show more content…
378). Hospitals have an array of medical devices at the bedside that have alarms, which have grown significantly within recent years. Nurses may be exposed to over 350 physiologic alarm monitors per day, resulting in sensory overload thus leading to desensitization. When the alarm sounds it should be corrected immediately, even though it may be a false alarm or no issues with the patient. The Joint Commission has identified alarm fatigue as a 2014 National Patient Safety Goal, requiring hospitals “to establish improvement of alarm system safety as an organization priority” (as cited in Horkan, 2014, p. 83). Alarms are deliberately designed for high sensitivity so that nurses do not miss a true event. Firing alarms are usually muted, disabled or ignored by nurses altogether because alarms are viewed as a nuisance. Alarm hazards have generated national attention, in one highly publicized case an alarm sounded for 75 minutes before a nurse responded to a patient’s heart monitor that needed a battery replaced. When the nurse finally went to change the battery the patient was found unresponsive and could not be resuscitated because he had gone into cardiac arrest (Sendelbach & Funk, 2013). The patient’s heart monitor battery eventually died and did not issue the critical alarm alert. In another event, a patient fell getting out of bed and bleed to death because the nurse
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