On my (AK) first day on the patient floors as a medical student, I couldn’t help but notice the buzzing, beeping, cacophony of alarms that ostensibly indicated impending danger for just about every patient on the unit. I looked around, waiting for someone (a nurse, a doctor, anyone) to react. Yet thus far in my brief career, I’ve come to learn that most of the alarms I hear do not indicate emergencies, and in fact most do not warrant any clinical intervention at all. As a result, the buzzing and beeping fades into the background now.

Physiologic monitor alarms are intentionally designed to alert clinicians immediately to any deviation from the norm, regardless of the quality of the signal or cause of the deviation. In theory, this design ensures that doctors and nurses will always be informed of physiologic changes to respond to important deterioration events quickly.

However, we...

You do not currently have access to this content.