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Efforts aim to address safety issues caused by alarm fatigue

If you have ever spent significant time in a hospital room, you are likely quite familiar with how noisy these spaces can get. Even though hospital rooms are supposed to be locations of rest and healing, the constant beeping, squawking and ringing of alarms renders most of these rooms anything but peaceful.

Though these alarms often serve critical functions, listening to them day and night can cause so-called alarm fatigue in hospital staff. Rather than responding to these alarms with urgency, staffers may unintentionally tune them out or fail to respond to them as immediately as is necessary. In such cases, staffers may ultimately behave in ways that can be labeled as hospital negligence due to harm suffered by patients whose alarms are not responded to urgently.

As a result of the alarm fatigue phenomenon, the Joint Commission recently released a National Patient Safety Goal (NPSG) focused on addressing this issue properly. The new NPSG requires accredited hospital facilities to improve their clinical alarm systems and protocols.

Specifically, the new NPSG encourages facilities to heighten their awareness of how clinical alarm fatigue can harm patients. Another phase of the NPSG, which will go into effect in January of 2016, will require facilities to reduce the risk of clinical alarm fatigue and other alarm-related patient safety concerns in a myriad of ways.

In the meantime, please advocate on behalf of your hospitalized loved ones. If staffers are not responding to alarms promptly, ask to speak to supervisors who can help ensure that overly fatigued staffers perform their duties of care properly.

Source: Fierce Healthcare, “Patient safety goal aims to end clinical alarm fatigue,” Katie Sullivan, Dec. 16, 2013

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