Clinical alarms were designed with the best of intentions—to alert clinicians about patient emergencies or changes in patient conditions. Most bedside medical devices, such as monitors, infusion pumps and ventilators, are alarm-equipped, but the lack of interoperability among these devices means multiple noises per patient room. Depending on the hospital unit, the number of clinical alerts per patient per day can result in thousands of alarm signals on every unit and tens of thousands throughout the hospital. The inevitable result? Alarm fatigue. The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) defines alarm fatigue as “sensory overload when clinicians are exposed to an excessive number of alarms, which can result in desensitization to alarms and missed alarms.”
In May 2017, there were 2.9 million registered nurses working in the United States, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). But that’s not enough to meet future demand, experts say. The BLS estimates that the employment of registered nurses is projected to grow by 15 percent from 2016 to 2026—faster than all other occupations. Why? Not only is the healthcare industry putting more emphasis on preventive care, but the aging baby boomer population and growing rates of chronic conditions are further driving the demand for healthcare. Nurses are also getting older and retiring, and fewer people are entering the profession. Those new to the nursing workforce report a significant level of workplace stress, and surveys of newly licensed hospital nurses reveal that 43 percent leave their jobs within three years of employment.