THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
ALARMS SOUNDED OVER MONITORING PATIENTS

Better guidance needed on when to use alarms

February 21, 2011

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WHILE CLINICIANS and equipment manufacturers clearly need to find a solution to the problem of “alarm fatigue,’’ spending $1 million dollars annually for someone to watch a monitor that is frequently incorrect is not a solution.

As a longtime clinical nursing educator, I understand the system failures that put nurses and patients in the untenable situation of ubiquitous alarms (“Patient alarms often unheard, unheeded,’’ Page A1, Feb. 13). Because we have a paucity of scientific research to guide clinician decision-making about which patients would benefit from monitoring, we use a one-size-fits-all approach and apply a monitor in every possible situation.

We need more scientific evidence to guide clinicians on which type of monitoring device is effective in detecting problems instead of continuing to add costly monitoring equipment.

Too often the prevailing belief is that alarms save lives. They don’t. Clinicians save lives. Putting too much trust in alarms fuels a false sense of security that monitoring will improve patient outcomes. I am not aware of evidence demonstrating that monitors actually decrease patient mortality.

Priscilla K. Gazarian
Boston
The writer is an assistant professor of nursing at Simmons College and a nursing program director at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.