Re-name Old Crisis to get a Nifty New One

Wow! ‘Alarm Fatigue’. A new buzzword!

Did we need another buzzword, or would some boring old word describe this situation better…

WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) – UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester is stepping up efforts to prevent nurses from tuning out monitor warning alarms following the death of a patient whose alarms signaling a fast heart rate and potential breathing problems went unanswered for nearly an hour.

The patient who died was a sixty year old man. He should not have gone ten minutes without a nurse responding to his serious symptoms.

Why did an epidemic of ‘alarm fatigue’ break out in that hospital? Why so many alarms? To allow a stretched staff to monitor the maximum number of patients possible on an average shift, without reserve capacity for a bad shift where all the alarms are going off at once– that’s my guess.

When corporations brag about getting ‘lean and mean’, you better worry that things can get thin and nasty.

Alarms are dumb. They do not have the power of reason or any of the perception of a trained human being who comes to the bedside. They have their place, but are not a substitute for adequate staffing.

‘Understaffing’ is a boring old word we are tired of hearing, since nurses keep going on about it for decades of labor disputes and public lobbying. It’s hard to get a catchy headline going about understaffing. We’ve heard it all before.

But look at the obvious. When there’s constant screaming alarms and the staff is fatigued they need more staff.

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2 responses

  1. We are experiencing the same problem (staffing) at State Hospitals.
    Kansas SRS is currently offering “buyouts” to many long time employees, and it seems that many of those jobs may simply just be eliminated.
    Some are DIRECT CARE. Technician to Resident ratio is at the crux of quality care. Period.

    Now, kinda’ off topic:
    Alarm fatigue? What a coincidence, as I am sitting with Dad right now in Joplin, Missouri. There have been local, and now national news reports about why so many people died, when there was plenty of advanced warning, especially the local sirens sounding.
    One thing that is being discussed is the number of times the sirens were activated vs. the actual number of tornadoes/serious weather. Seems that the sirens are sounded far too many times, erring in the direction of caution. This has caused many to not take the siren warnings seriously.
    One thing that concerns me is the number of “spotters” who are deemed “qualified” after attending one seminar (this is the case in Kansas, I know for sure).
    IMHO, many of these folks are ‘Joe six-pack’ type, average guys, who fancy themselves as ‘storm chasers’. I mean, I know some who literally run and grab a six pack before going out spotting. Another problem is the number of residents who just want to SEE A TORNADO!

    1. I saw one tornado in Illinois and could do without seeing another,ever.

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