Strategies for Addressing Alarm Fatigue


Alarm fatigue or alert fatigue occurs when one is exposed to a large number of frequent alarms (alerts) and consequently becomes desensitized to them.  Anyone who has worked in a hospital has certainly experienced this.  Even patients can easily become desensitized.

Improving the safety of clinical alarm systems is a Joint Commission National Patient Safety Goal for both PPS and Critical Access Hospitals (NPSG.06.01.01).  Numerous authors and organizations have addressed the problem of alarm fatigue, a few of which are listed below.


AACN: Strategies for Managing Alarm Fatigue

AHRQ Patient Safety Network: Harm from Alarm Fatigue

Beckers: 7 Alarm Management Strategies for Nurses

IHI Open School: What Are the Dangers of Alert Fatigue? (YouTube Video)

TJC: Sentinel Event Alert #50


So where to start?  Here’s some tips:

  1. Complete a risk assessment. What are the risks to your patients from alarm fatigue?  You may want to consider completing a Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA).
  2. Identify Alarm Fatigue as a Patient Safety Issue. Regardless of the size of the organization, alarm fatigue can be a significant patient safety issue.  Discuss with organizational leaders inclusion of alarm fatigue as one of your patient safety initiatives.
  3. Review the literature. Find out what experts are recommending and other hospitals are doing to combat alarm fatigue.
  4. Develop a plan and implement evidence-based best practices for reducing Alarm Fatigue.
  5. Monitor your plan. Your plan should have both process and outcome measures.

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