By David Ogul
Anyone who has ever stepped into a patient ward at a hospital knows all too well that the cacophony of bed alarms and emergency signals can be a bit desensitizing. Administrators call it “alarm fatigue,” and when administrators at Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas were looking for solutions, they turned to a trio of students at the Cal State San Marcos School of Nursing for help.
It was a good choice. Nursing seniors Maylene Pingol, Ysabelle Valera and Justine Biag spent much of the fall semester developing a comprehensive strategy dubbed the “No Pass Zone” addressing the underlying causes of false alarms while simultaneously mandating that no staff member can pass by an alarm that goes off in a patient’s room without stopping by to make sure the patient is OK or is being cared for.
“It’s a matter of patient safety,” said Ysabelle, who aspires to become a pediatric ICU nurse. “Call (alarm) fatigue is a very real problem; researchers have found that anywhere from 72 to 99 percent of clinical alarms are false. But what if you ignore an alarm that isn’t false? And if an alarm is going off and keeps going off and nobody responds and there’s a family member there, what does that tell the family member?”
Added Justine, who is on track to becoming an ICU nurse and nurse practitioner: “The responsibility of responding to call lights and patient alarms falls on every employee of the hospital. Collaboration and teamwork is key to improving patient safety and experience.”
The three nursing students along with Lisa Baer, the Scripps Health Director of Patient Care Services, are in the process of implementing the No Pass Zone. Possible interventions include training all hospital staff in call response protocol, and each unit creating individualized alarm parameters specifically tailored to the patient’s needs.
“Everyone in the hospital is responsible for addressing the call lights or at least for non-nursing staff to seek someone who can address the patient’s needs,” said Maylene, who aspires to become a clinical lecturer and hospice nurse.
This wasn’t the first time Scripps worked with CSUSM’s Nursing Program. Last spring, Scripps asked the school to help it improve emergency room patient satisfaction scores. That led to a different trio of students querying patients to gauge their opinions about the care they had received. Data was collected, improvements were made, and patients are happier, said Razel Milo, Ph.D., a nurse practitioner, certified legal nurse consultant and lecturer at CSUSM.
“We have a great nursing program and our students are involved in a lot of different projects at hospitals in our community,” Milo said. “They are having an impact as students and they will continue to make a difference once they graduate and go out into the workforce.”