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Study: Hospital “Alarm Fatigue” Can Be Deadly

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DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - Hospital monitors inside patients rooms, which are constantly beeping, can actually lead to a condition for health care workers known as “alarm fatigue.”

It’s when a caregiver becomes desensitized to the sound of the beeping alarms.

Those monitors sound off hundreds of times a day.

Ashley Yount, a Nurse Supervisor on the pediatric floor at Medical City Children’s Hospital in Dallas says, “I would say we get one alarm every 30 seconds.”

The majority of alarms are for serious conditions.  Adding to it is the number of false alarms, usually set off by patients who are moving around. That’s typically the infants.

Alarm fatigue has led to an average of two dozen deaths every year says an independent survey group known as the Joint Commission.

Steve Love, Vice President and CEO of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council said he had not heard of any deaths from it in North Texas.

“Alarm fatigue is something we’re aware of and something we work at,” he said.

Medical City Children’s Hospital just installed a new alarm monitoring system in its pediatric unit that remedies the problem and speeds up response times.

“It goes directly to the nurse’s phone they carry within 20 seconds,” said Ashley Yount the Nurse Supervisor at Medical City Children’s Hospital.

The system bypasses the central nurse’s station and specifies the patient’s condition on the nurses phone.

“They will say the oxygen levels are low or the heart rate is high,” Yount said.

If the nurse is busy with another patient or doesn’t hear the call, it’s forwarded to another nurse’s phone.

It’s a system that could save seconds, even lives. And, cutting out the excess noise might give everyone more peace of mind.

Nurses still using the old system are encouraged to take noise breaks, 30 minutes of quiet time.

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