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Chronic Alarm Fatigue Key Determinant of Response Time

Study at a children's hospital evaluated response time to bedside alarms

a child in a hospital

WEDNESDAY, April 12, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Nurses are usually quick to react when alarms are urgent, but they're slower to respond at the end of the workday or when they are experiencing "chronic alarm fatigue," according to a study published online April 10 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Researchers analyzed video of 38 nurses caring for 100 patients at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia from 2014 to 2015. Almost all of the 11,745 alarms that sounded were valid, with 50 deemed critical. Nurses responded in about a minute, on average, to these alarms.

Overall, half of the total alarms took 10.4 minutes or more to address, the investigators found. Nurses with under one year of experience responded faster than nurses with one or more years' experience, and nurses taking care of just one patient responded faster than those caring for more than one patient. For each hour that passed in a nurse's shift, their response time got a little bit slower. The median response time was six minutes when family members weren't there, and 12 minutes when they were.

Delayed response time didn't threaten any of the 100 patients evaluated in the study. Just half of 1 percent of more than 11,000 alarms analyzed were deemed actionable, or crucial. "The nurses were overall doing a great job predicting which alarms were going to be important," lead author Christopher Bonafide, M.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics with the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, told HealthDay. "Their intuition was correct."

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