Background and objectives: Physiologic monitor alarms occur at high rates in children's hospitals; ≤1% are actionable. The burden of alarms has implications for patient safety and is challenging to measure directly. Nurse workload, measured by using a version of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Task Load Index (NASA-TLX) validated among nurses, is a useful indicator of work burden that has been associated with patient outcomes. A recent study revealed that 5-point increases in the NASA-TLX score were associated with a 22% increased risk in missed nursing care. Our objective was to measure the relationship between alarm count and nurse workload by using the NASA-TLX.
Methods: We conducted a repeated cross-sectional study of pediatric nurses in a tertiary care children's hospital to measure the association between NASA-TLX workload evaluations (using the nurse-validated scale) and alarm count in the 2 hours preceding NASA-TLX administration. Using a multivariable mixed-effects regression accounting for nurse-level clustering, we modeled the adjusted association of alarm count with workload.
Results: The NASA-TLX score was assessed in 26 nurses during 394 nursing shifts over a 2-month period. In adjusted regression models, experiencing >40 alarms in the preceding 2 hours was associated with a 5.5 point increase (95% confidence interval 5.2 to 5.7; P < .001) in subjective workload.
Conclusion: Alarm count in the preceding 2 hours is associated with a significant increase in subjective nurse workload that exceeds the threshold associated with increased risk of missed nursing care and potential patient harm.
Copyright © 2021 by the American Academy of Pediatrics.