Alarm Fatigue Among Nurses Leads to Serious Medical Mistakes

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Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers weigh in on alarm fatigue among nurses. Nurses who work in busy hospitals or intensive care units have a range of responsibilities, including checking vital signs, administering medication, monitoring patients’ ventilators, and making sure that feeding pumps are working properly. All these machines are equipped with alarms that alert nurses when a patient needs medical attention. However, according to research, 72 to 99 percent of alarms are false. As a result, nurses may ignore an alarm for that reason. Unfortunately, this can jeopardize the health and safety of patients if the missed alarm results in a medical mistake.

According to the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, alarm fatigue is a type of sensory overload caused by exposure to an excessive number of alarms. Over time, this can result in a desensitization to alarm sounds, making it more likely for nurses to miss alarms. In 2013, the Joint Commission (TJC) issued an alert on alarms after several missed alarms were reported. They made alarm management a National Patient Safety Goal for 2014, and every year since, due to the ongoing reports of events related to alarm fatigue.

Reducing Alarm-Related Medical Mistakes is a Safety Priority for 2019

The Joint Commission issued several patient safety guidelines for their annual report, including the following:

  • Hospital administrators must make alarm safety a priority
  • Identify the most important alarm signals based on input from staff, risk to patients, and published best practices
  • Create policies and procedures that address the following issues:
    – When alarms should be disabled
    – Who can set or change alarm parameters
    – Monitoring and responding to alarms
    – Ensuring that alarm signals are working properly
  • Educate staff about the specific purpose of various alarms and how to properly operate them.

Nursing associations have made specific recommendations for ways to reduce alarm fatigue for nurse leaders and bedside clinicians, including the following:

Nurse Leaders

  • Establish an alarm management team
  • Develop monitoring procedures that focus only on patients that are clinically indicated for monitoring
  • Establish alarm management policies that are specific to each unit
  • Educate staff on monitoring systems and alarm management

Bedside Clinicians

  • Ensure that the skin is prepared for EKG electrodes
  • Use the appropriate oxygen saturation probes and placement
  • At the beginning of each shift, check alarm settings
  • Customize alarm settings for each patient based on hospital policy

The Joint Commission will continue to address alarm fatigue, and the impact that is has on patients and in hospitals across the country. Medical mistakes related to alarm fatigue can be prevented by implementing and enforcing the Joint Commission’s safety goals.

Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Seek Justice for Victims of Alarm Fatigue

If you or a loved one was injured, or your health has been compromised due to a medical mistake related to alarm fatigue, you are urged to contact the Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton as soon as possible. We will investigate the details of your case and determine who is responsible for your injury. Protecting your legal rights is our top priority. Our skilled legal team will obtain the maximum financial compensation you deserve. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Our offices are located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Towson, allowing us to represent medical malpractice victims in Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Southern Maryland, and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.