We measure many different patient functions with our bedside monitors, including heart, blood pressure and breathing characteristics. All of our life-support equipment measures both patient characteristics and the safety features of the device. Almost everything that can be measured can have an alarm functions. When something that we are measuring falls outside a specific range, an alarm can be activated. We have alarms on our monitors, ventilators, infusion and feeding pumps, dialysis machines and beds.
Our monitors are very sensitive and there are many things that can trigger an alarm even when nothing is wrong. For example patient movement can fool the monitor into believing that something is very fast. False alarms also occur when patients are sweating, coughing or restless.
It can be stressful to hear alarms when you come in to visit. A nurse will respond to the alarms and explain the reason for the alarm. Most alarms that you hear do not indicated a problem. Most family members begin to feel more comfortable around the bedside after they have visited a few times.