Research paper|Articles in Press

A grounded theory study of alarm fatigue among nurses in intensive care units

Published:February 01, 2023DOI:



      The aim of this study was to explore the process of how nurses experienced and dealt with alarm fatigue in intensive care units based on Iranian nurses' perceptions and experiences.


      Alarm fatigue is the overstimulation of senses due to the constant ringing of alarms in intensive care units. It is associated with nurses’ desensitization to critical alarms that can directly influence patient safety and quality of care.


      A qualitative exploratory study using the grounded theory approach by Strauss and Corbin was carried out. Participants were 20 nurses working in intensive care units. The sampling process was started purposively and continued theoretically. Data were collected using semi-structured, in-depth, and individual interviews and continued to data saturation. The constant comparative analysis approach was used consisting of the following steps: open coding, developing concepts, analysing the context, entering the process into data analysis, integrating categories.


      The participants' main concern in the exposure to alarm fatigue was ‘threat to personal balance’. The core category in this research was ‘trying to create a holistic balance’, which reflected a set of strategies that the nurses consistently and continuously used to deal with alarm fatigue and consisted of four main categories as follows: ‘smart care’, ‘deliberate balancing’, ‘conditional prioritisation’, and ‘negligent performance’. Threat to personal balance was strengthened by ‘inappropriate circuit of individual roles’, ‘distortion of the organisational structure’, and ‘insecurity of the infrastructure’. The consequences of this process was harm to the patient, burnout among nurse, and damage to the healthcare organisation.


      The research findings have practical implications for healthcare management, policymaking, nursing education, research, and clinical practice. Mitigating staff shortages, improving staff competencies, enhancing nurses’ authority for responding to alarms, modifying care routines, improving the physical environment, and removing problems related to alarm equipment can prevent alarm fatigue and its unappropriated consequences.


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