Assignment: Alarm Fatigue Nurses
Alarm fatigue Nurses reported auditory and visual notifica- tions from multiple devices. There was consen- sus among participants that there were too many alarms in their clinical setting, and it was diffi- cult to maintain a real-time sense of those that were important to patient safety and those that were nonactionable or low priority. They dis-
cussed being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of alarms: “We have so many things … all kinds of auditory stimuli.”An NICU nurse stated: “Ev- erything alarms in the NICU: our ventilators alarm, our IV pumps alarm. Alarms are going off constantly,”and “The phones are ringing, IVs are going, vents going, regular alarms going, the tube station and tube feeding beep … it’s just too much” (ICU nurse).
Nurses discussed tuning out the sounds and flashing lights and banners on the computer screen: “I don’t pay attention to the alarms (la- bor nurse).” They reported lingering effects of the sensory overload, for example, “When you go home at night, you can still hear it all” and “Sometimes I dream about dings.” Nurses indi- cated that duration of time and repeated expo- sure to the alarms resulted in less attention to the data being generated and less action as a result of alarm data. “You can sit next to a ringing bell and not hear it, because it’s overwhelming” (ICU nurse).
False alarms were commonly discussed and how over time they are ignored by the nurses: “The baby alarm goes off all the time. Two, three times an hour … several times a day … at least 5 times in a shift”(labor nurse); “It may be an ar- tifact or may be that someone is in there giving care, and the nurse will not get up to attend to it because they didn’t witness it” (NICU nurse); and “If someone is alert and awake, but they’re still in the ICU for some reason, and the apnea alarm keeps on going off, by the end of the shift, I’ve tuned it out after hearing it all day” (ICU nurse).
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