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False Alarms and Overmonitoring

Major Factors in Alarm Fatigue Among Labor Nurses

Simpson, Kathleen Rice, PhD, RNC, CNS-BC, FAAN; Lyndon, Audrey, PhD, RNC, FAAN

doi: 10.1097/NCQ.0000000000000335

Background: Nurses can be exposed to hundreds of alarms during their shift, contributing to alarm fatigue.

Purpose: The purposes were to explore similarities and differences in perceptions of clinical alarms by labor nurses caring for generally healthy women compared with perceptions of adult intensive care unit (ICU) and neonatal ICU nurses caring for critically ill patients and to seek nurses' suggestions for potential improvements.

Methods: Nurses were asked via focus groups about the utility of clinical alarms from medical devices.

Results: There was consensus that false alarms and too many devices generating alarms contributed to alarm fatigue, and most alarms lacked clinical relevance. Nurses identified certain types of alarms that they responded to immediately, but the vast majority of the alarms did not contribute to their clinical assessment or planned nursing care.

Conclusions: Monitoring only those patients who need it and only those physiologic values that are warranted, based on patient condition, may decrease alarm burden.

Mercy Hospital St Louis, Missouri (Dr Simpson); and Department of Family Health Care Nursing, UCSF School of Nursing, San Francisco, California (Dr Lyndon).

Correspondence: Kathleen Rice Simpson, PhD, RNC, CNS-BC, FAAN, Mercy Hospital St. Louis, 7140 Pershing Ave, St. Louis, MO 63130 (

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the printed text and are provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal's Web site (

Accepted for publication: March 8, 2018

Published ahead of print: June 8, 2018

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