Nurses in intensive care units are exposed to hundreds of alarms during a shift, and research shows that most alarms are not clinically relevant. Alarm fatigue can occur when a nurse becomes desensitized to alarms. Alarm fatigue can jeopardize patient safety, and adverse alarm events can lead to patients dying.


To evaluate how a process intervention affects the number of alarms during an 8-hour shift in an intensive care unit.


A total of 62 patients from an intensive care unit were included in the study; 32 of these patients received the intervention, which included washing the patient’s chest with soap and water and applying new electrocardiography electrodes at the start of a shift. The number of alarms, clinical diagnoses, and demographic variables were collected for each patient. A Poisson regression model was used to evaluate the impact of the intervention on the overall number of clinical alarms during the shift, with no adjustments to the alarm settings or other interventions.


After relevant covariates are controlled for, the results suggest that patients in the intervention group presented significantly fewer alarms than did patients in the control group.


Managing clinical alarms is a main issue in terms of both patient safety and staff workload management. The results of this study demonstrate that a relatively simple process-oriented strategy can decrease the number of alarms.

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