Alarm fatigue is a problem. We all know it. That’s why the Joint Commission has made combatting alarm fatigue one of its key issues for hospitals to focus on in its 2014 patient safety report. I found a great article that outlines this problem and how one Boston hospital is working to reduce the problems associated with Alarm Fatigue over at

12,000 Nurse Alarms A Day!

nurse ventilator alarm fatigueThe article looks at Boston Medical Center which found that on just one unit, they were dealing with 12,000 alarms a day! Yes, 12,000. I bet you knew there were a lot of alarms going off in your facility but I bet you never counted them all before. I suspect the Boston Medical Center number is about the norm for a typical unit in a busy, major urban hospital.

The staff at Boston Medical Center took a look at the beeps, hoops, and buzzers and determined that the majority of them were merely warnings set by manufacturer based on an arbitrary number for a patient reading out of normal. This meant they could be turned off. Nurses were constantly having to just go in and reset them anyway because they almost always meant nothing.

Nurses Empowered to Change Monitor Settings

They also gave nurses the power to set parameters for individual patients to account for each patient’s status quo (which we should have been doing all along). At the end of the reorganization, Boston Medical Center found that they could reduce the number of daily alarms on the unit from 12,000 to just over 1,000 each day.

The staff was happier, had more time to focus on good patient care and the patients liked it, too since they were able to rest more with less noise. They also found that nurses were quicker to respond to the patient call light with less alarms going off.

What is your facility doing to address the issue of alarm fatigue? I’ll have a link in this article on this week so you can find the Joint Commission report on patient safety yourself. It’s interesting reading and probably should be required to at least review it for every nurse out there.


Make sure you follow-up on the links for this news item and all of the other news and additional resource links from this week’s episode –Scanadu Vital Signs, Reebok Concussion CheckLight and Episode 287.



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