Solving the problem of blaring alarms with communication alerts

Carolyn Henricks, RN, BSN

An intercom broadcasts a fast, high-pitched alarm for the rapid response team (RRT). Clinicians across the hospital hear the alarm while carrying out their jobs. Many are accustomed–almost numb, really–to the device, pager or other outdated method emitting constant beeping or chiming of RRT alerts for emergent care situations.

By contrast, in a curtained emergency room on the first floor, the piercing sound reaches a mother sitting vigil by her ailing child’s bedside. She peeks out and watches RRT members spring into action. She wonders what’s wrong as the noisy warning heightens her anxiety and stress. The distressed mother’s only option is to wait, hands clenched, hoping the crisis does not affect her little one.

As a former registered nurse who now travels to client sites, I have witnessed hundreds of similar scenarios play out in hospitals and health systems across the country. Like the national movement to adopt electronic records, our healthcare system must implement a modernized emergency care notification system. Eliminating loud alarms reduces needless turmoil and fosters healing.

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