By, James Campbell
Have you ever visited a loved one in a hospital and been beseeched by the constant ringing of alarms. They seem to go off and off without anyone paying any attention. Nurses and aids seem to routinely ignore the alarms. In the medical community, this is called alarm fatigue.
The Joint Commission, the entity that inspects and accredits many hospitals and other health care organizations, recently emphasized that alarm fatigue – the ignoring of alarms on medical devices – continues to be a significant source of injury to hospital patients. Because of this, the Joint Commission recommends that hospitals enact policies to prevent staff from silencing an alarm without addressing the cause of the alarm.
I recently prosecuted a case where one of the likely explanations for the patient's severe injury was a critical monitoring alarm was silenced.
What can you do? As with many other things in a hospital, every patient needs an advocate. If a loved one is in the hospital, you need to have somebody by their side to ensure they are getting the correct care and medicines. Also, keep a journal of the medicines, tests, and diagnoses made. Hospitals can be dangerous places, and we all need someone to watch over us in this vulnerable time.