Hospital tones down alarms to reduce fatigue, enhance safety

Nurse Todd Ostlund is so happy about the Abbott Northwestern alarms project that he e-mailed his thanks to his supervisors.

Nurse Todd Ostlund is so happy about the Abbott Northwestern alarms project that he e-mailed his thanks to his supervisors.
Photo: Leila Navidi, Star Tribune

[Star Tribune, Feb. 9, 2015] After a night shift at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Todd Ostlund would go home and switch off his phone ringer and anything else mimicking the many, many alarms a nurse hears while on duty.

And still, on many nights, he’d be roused from sleep by a “beep, beep, beep” in his dreams. “I’m never having peace,” he said.

Medical device alarms play critical roles in a hospital — to signal trouble with a patient’s vital signs or medical equipment, and to draw caregivers to the bedside in time to help. But too often, alarms have been nuisances.

The resulting problem, known as “alarm fatigue,” can prevent nurses from responding to real patient emergencies, with fatal results.

Now, a study from one of Allina Health’s intensive care units suggests that less, indeed, can be more. Read more at the Star Tribune online.

Get Allina in the News delivered to your email inbox each morning.