Distractors in our Environments
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Reducing the harm associated with clinical alarm systems is a national patient safety goal (Gaines, 2022). The idea that a patient can be harmed due to alarm fatigue can lead to legal charges of negligence and malpractice. Ethically it raises an issue as the alarm is being used to keep patients safe when overuse of alarms has caused the patient to be ignored when they required assistance. I worked in a LTACH years ago and I have personally experienced alarm fatigue. The facility had ventilators that would alarm loudly and flash a red light if a patient so much as coughed. Combine this sound with call lights alarms, feeding pump alarms, and IV pump alarms, these alarms happening at once can be extremely overwhelming. One study showed that more than 85 percent of all alarms in a particular unit were false (Gaines, 2022). The study also showed that between January 2009 and June 2012, hospitals in the United States reported 80 deaths and 13 severe injuries related to alarm fatigue (Gaines, 2022).
The Joint Commission continues to encourage healthcare systems to implement policies to decrease the burden of unnecessary alarms on staff and new technologies can assist with this issue (Gaines, 2022). For example, instead of a light and alarm to summon the nurse to the patient room, the call bells can now send specific text messages to patients’ care providers, such as “I am in pain” or “I need something to drink,” helping care providers anticipate and prioritize their response to the call bell (Hebda et al., 2018). In the original sentinel event alert, The Joint Commission identified numerous factors that they believed contributed to alarm fatigue in the hospital setting. Alarm settings, poor ekg practices, the inability of staff to hear alarms or poor training related to alarms were just a few issues named. While there is no universal solution to alarm fatigue, hospitals are taking individual approaches to combat it. The Joint Commission stresses in the 2019 National Patient Safety Goals that there needs to be standardization but can be customized for specific clinical units, groups of patients, or individual patients (Gaines, 2022).
( Nicole )
Gaines, K. (2022, November 15).
Alarm fatigue is way too real (and scary) for Nurses. Nurse.org.
Links to an external site.
Hebda, T., Hunter, K., & Czar, P. (2019). Handbook of informatics for nurses & healthcare professionals (6th ed.). Pearson.