Alarm Fatigue

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CONFERENCE: The Research and Scholarship Symposium

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Weindorf, Gretta; Payne, Jennifer; Eckberg, Justin; Eckberg, Hannah
Alarm fatigue; patient safety; hospital noise; Nursing
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Alarm fatigue in hospital nursing settings is characterized and caused by false positive alarms and clinically insignificant alarms, sometimes referred to as the “crying wolf” effect (Gross, Dahl, & Nielsen, 2011; Funk, Clark, Bauld, Ott, & Coss, 2014). The phenomena of repeated false alarms over time causes nursing staff to become desensitized, responding less frequently and less punctually resulting in compromised patient care and safety (Konkani, Oakley, & Bauld, 2012). As estimated by The Joint Commission (2013), hereafter referred to as TJC, 85-99% of sounding alarms are insignificant, reinforced by Graham and Cvach (2010), who estimated less than 1% resulted in nursing intervention. In 2013, TJC issued a Sentinel Event raising awareness about alarm fatigue, requiring hospitals to create guidelines for medical equipment alarms (Funk et al., 2014). The new policies need revision and further study before a definitive answer can be recommended to reduce noise and increase nursing efficiency. As stated by the patron of the nursing profession, Florence Nightingale in Notes on Nursing: What It Is, and What It Is Not: “Unnecessary noise, then, is the most cruel absence of care which can be inflicted either on sick or well” (1859, p. 27). In this review of the literature, the researchers took multiple scholarly articles and studies from medical databases and synthesized them. Recommendations and gaps in the literature are noted.