Electrocardiographic Alarms in the Acute Care Setting
Electrocardiographic [ECG] alarms are used in acute
care settings to continuously monitor patients’ cardiac status,
and to alert clinicians to potentially life-threatening changes in a
patient’s condition. However, the numbers of alarms in the acute
care setting have increased exponentially in the past 20 years.
This was to ensure patient safety, and to avoid adverse events
that could end in litigations . Cardiac alarms represent the
second most frequent alarm in the acute care setting at 37% .
Although ECG alarms may help save lives, proper alarm
management has been problematic and ECG alarms that were
designed to enhance patient safety have become a top national
safety hazard. Registered Nurses [RNs] must respond to a variety
of alarms in acute care settings; however many of these alarms
require no action because they may not be triggered by an actual
health need. Responding to non-actionable alarms can interrupt
nursing workflow, increase the likelihood of clinical errors, and
can lead to alarm fatigue and nurse burnout, as well as serious
financial consequences for the organizations. This paper
discusses problems with ECG alarm management as experienced
by RN’s, and provides suggestions to improve alarm
management in acute care settings.