Frequency of Clinical Alarms in Intensive Care Units and Nurses' Sensitivity to Them

An Observational Study

Burcu Ceylan, PhD, RN; Leyla Baran, PhD, RN; Ülkü Yapucu Güneş, PhD, RN


Am J Crit Care. 2021;30(3):186-192. 

In This Article


A high frequency of alarms in the hospital setting may not only result in delayed responses to alarms but also make it difficult for caregivers to fulfill their other responsibilities. The more frequently alarms sound and the longer their activation, the less sensitivity and reactivity nurses show to them. During a typical work shift, nurses are exposed to many alarms. If the alarm is not a critical one requiring emergency intervention, the nurse tends to respond either late or not at all. Thus, reducing the frequency of alarms should be a high priority. To accomplish this, patient-specific monitor or pulse oximeter settings can be adjusted in accordance with the standards of the ICU. To reduce the incidence of false alarms, the medical device industry should be encouraged to improve the accuracy of their products' measurements and use proven "smart alarm" technology. In addition, alarm systems should be developed through better human factors engineering, such as the use of more intuitive graphical user interfaces, advanced alarm integration, and intelligence.

These research results show that nurses develop insensitivity to alarms, as seen in other research.