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Battling alarm fatigue in hospitals

Narrator:       This is Science Today. If you've ever visited a loved one in the hospital, especially in the intensive care unit, you've no doubt heard all the beeps and alarms that sound off. Now imagine being a nurse and hearing over a hundred alarms an hour and needing to memorize which is which and whether it's a technical problem or something more serious. Barbara Drew, an internationally recognized cardiac monitoring expert at the University of California, San Francisco, explains that nurses suffer from alarm fatigue because there are often so many false positives.

Drew:             They get tired of listening to them and it becomes background noise and they become desensitized to the alarms, so that they don't respond anymore to the alarms or worse yet, they shut off the alarms. And then, the possibility exists that if something really dangerous did happen to the patient, it would be missed.

Narrator:       Drew is part of a research team working to inform emerging national regulations to help solve the problem of alarm fatigue. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.