Alarm Fatigue: A Risk Assessment
Alarm fatigue is the phenomenon which occurs when nurses become overwhelmed by the high number of alarms in the clinical environment. This is a significant patient safety issue as delayed or inappropriate responses can and have resulted in patient harm. The purpose of the observational study was to conduct a risk assessment of alarm fatigue at an acute care teaching hospital in Providence, RI. Observations of telemetry alarms and response were conducted, utilizing a standardized tool on two medical surgical units over a six week time period. Participants were 36 nurses working on the two units at time of observations. Alarms were quantified to determine the percentage of false, technical, valid, and nuisance alarms. Alarm frequency was calculated and average response time to critical and leads off alarms were determined. Nurses were found to be at risk for and experiencing alarm fatigue based on high alarm frequency, increased number of false and nuisance alarms, and a delayed response to leads off conditions. The findings in this study are consistent with what is occurring in healthcare organizations nationally, as evidenced by a recent Joint Commission Sentinel Event Alert about medical device alarm safety that cited alarm fatigue as a major contributing factor. Recommendations and implications are presented and discussed.