Joint Commission and FDA to make alarm fatigue a priority

Nurses hear hundreds of alarms during their shift, some critical, some less important, and many are false alarms, causing ‘alarm fatigue’, which can lead to patient safety issues, according to an article in the Boston Globe.

According to the article, there are significantly more alarms on medical devices today than there were in 2004.  The Globe identified 216 deaths nationwide between January 2005 and June 2010, 16 of those in Massachusetts, linked to alarms on patient monitors. In some cases, medical staff didn’t notice the alarm because they were desensitized to hearing so many alarms all day long.

The FDA plans to meet with the Joint Commission to come up with a strategy to address the problem.

(Sources: The Boston Globe,, April 18, 2011; Patient Safety Monitor Alert,, April 18, 2011)