Sensory Overload and Technology in Critical Care

Crit Care Nurs Clin North Am. 2018 Jun;30(2):179-190. doi: 10.1016/j.cnc.2018.02.001. Epub 2018 Mar 20.


In this focus group study, we identified issues associated with sensory overload from medical technology alarms/alerts for intensive care unit nurses. Participants indicated that alarms from cardiopulmonary monitors, ventilators, and intravenous pumps contributed the most to sensory overload and, yet, these alarms were also deemed the most helpful. Alerts/alarms from electronic health records and medication dispensing systems were rated low in contributing to sensory overload, as well as being the least helpful. Specific device/technology barriers, related to device alerts/alarms, are detailed. Future user-centered and integrated improvements in alarm systems associated with medical devices in the intensive care unit are needed.

Keywords: Device alarms; Human factors; Intensive care; Sensory overload; Technology.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Clinical Alarms / adverse effects*
  • Clinical Alarms / statistics & numerical data*
  • Critical Care / methods*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Monitoring, Physiologic / instrumentation*
  • Qualitative Research