Nurse! What's Taking So Long?
Study at a children's hospital evaluates response time to bedside alarms
By Randy Dotinga
TUESDAY, April 11, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- When a bedside alarm goes off in a child's hospital room, anxious parents expect nurses to respond pronto.
That rarely happens, however, and a new study helps explain why.
Researchers found that 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 suffer from "chronic alarm fatigue."
Also, having parents present doubled the response time on average, the study found.
But, delayed response time didn't threaten any of the 100 patients evaluated in the study, the researchers said. And 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," said study lead author Dr. Christopher Bonafide, an assistant professor of pediatrics with the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "Their intuition was correct."
The high number of false alarms in U.S. hospitals has led to "alarm fatigue" among nurses. As a result, the Joint Commission -- the organization that accredits American hospitals -- issued new guidelines for managing alarm monitors.
The beeps and buzzes alert staff to medical problems facing patients such as high heart rates, dips in oxygen levels in the blood and dangerous heartbeat patterns, Bonafide said.
But, many false alarms are caused simply by babies moving around and disrupting sensors, he said.
"When an alarm goes off and the nurse is already in the patient's room, they can immediately look up, check on the patient, and make sure everything is OK," Bonafide said. "When a nurse isn't in the room, some hospitals like ours have the ability to send them a text message to the phone that they are carrying."
For this study, researchers analyzed video of 38 nurses caring for 100 patients at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia from 2014-2015.
Almost all of the 11,745 beeps and buzzes that sounded were valid. And 50 were deemed critical, "the important ones we would not want anyone to miss," Bonafide said. Nurses responded in about a minute, on average, to these alarms.