Alarm fatigue in ICU
Background: Muted or controlled alarms resulting from alarm fatigue have become a threat to patient safety and several institutions are aware of this risk.
Aims: This study aimed to investigate critical care nurses’ perceptions of medical device alarms, alarm fatigue, and alarm management practices.
Methods: This descriptive study investigated 48 nurses working at two intensive care units (ICUs) within a single university hospital, in South Korea. They were asked to complete a self-administered questionnaire about their perception of the ICU medical device alarm, alarm fatigue, and related management practices. The response rate was 100%.
Results: Critical care nurses experienced a moderate or higher level of alarm fatigue, scoring 29.1 out of 40. Participants identified the items “Frequent false alarms, which lead to reduced attention or response to alarm when they occur,” and “Inadequate staff” as the most important issues for alarm management. The most frequently involved item in alarm management practice was “I only use infusion pumps for drugs that require precise dose.” Alarm management practices among the nurses differed significantly according to ICU clinical career and experience of patient safety accidents.
Conclusions: This study highlights the need to develop a standardized medical device alarm management protocol that can help identify different alarms correctly and respond to them rapidly and appropriately.
Relevance to clinical practice: It is necessary to reduce alarm fatigue and promote safe and effective alarm management practices among critical care nurses through sufficient education and steady training. Alarm fatigue should also be mitigated by employment of sufficient nursing personnel in ICUs.
Jeong YJ, Kim H. Critical care nurses’ perceptions and practices towards clinical alarms. Nurs Crit Care. 2022 Jan 12. doi: 10.1111/nicc.12751. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35021259.