In some hospital units, nurses and other health professionals hear hundreds of medical device alarms go off each day. While many of those alarms don’t require action, the sheer number can be overwhelming and lead to health professionals becoming desensitized and non-reactive to device alarms. Leading health care organizations, including the ECRI Institute and the Joint Commission, have identified “alarm fatigue” as a serious hazard, which can put patients’ health and even lives at risk. Clinical alarms have been on ECRI’s Top 10 List of Technology Hazards for many years and this year, the Joint Commission established a National Patient Safety Goal to improve the safety of alarms.
As advanced practice registered nurses who help drive practice changes, and ensure the use of best practices and evidence-based care to achieve the best possible patient outcomes, Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNSs) can play a pivotal role in reducing alarm fatigue.
The National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS) has created a toolkit to facilitate CNSs’ efforts to facilitate appropriate alarm management and help staff implement strategies to ensure alarm safety. The toolkit, available on the NACNS website at http://www.nacns.org/html/alarm-fatigue.php, includes:
- A checklist for starting a program to reduce alarm fatigue, using a Six Sigma Process;
- An extensive list of available resources (including articles, webinars, guides and more) from a variety of leading organizations, including the America Association of Critical Care Nurses, the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation, ECRI, Johns Hopkins University, the Joint Commission, and the Healthcare Technology Foundation, that can be used to implement a program to reduce alarm fatigue; and
- A Frequently Asked Questions document.
“As leaders in ensuring evidence-based care, CNSs have an important role to play in reducing the potentially dangerous and deadly problem of alarm fatigue,” said NACNS 2014 President Les Rodriguez, MSN, MPH, RN, ACNS-BC, APRN. “Our toolkit was developed by a group of national experts whom NACNS convened to address this important issue and provide resources that will help nurses across the country combat this problem. It is intended to help guide their efforts to improve patient safety and quality of care. The toolkit includes everything a CNS needs to work collaboratively with an interprofessional team to assess the clinical environment, and then develop implement and evaluate appropriate interventions.”