The Efficacy of Conventional Bed Alarms in Preventing Falls in Hospitalized Patients: State of the Science and Strategies Moving Forward
Inpatient falls are a seemingly intractable problem in hospitals amongst a vulnerable and increasingly aging population. They result in emotional, physical, and financial harm to all involved, and nurses are often held responsible for these outcomes. Recent efforts have moved away from earlier mechanical and physical restraints in an effort to find effective, safe, and less restrictive means to protect patients. Bed alarms are frequently utilized to this end, but the evidence is unclear.
Are conventional bed alarms effective in preventing falls in hospitalized patients?
The aim of this project was to evaluate the effectiveness and practicality of bed alarms, both through literature review and independent action.
A search was conducted for peer-reviewed literature from the last 10 years. Sources published in English and containing combinations of the keywords “bed alarm,” “fall,” “hospital,” “nursing,” “history,” and “restraint” were used. Miami Dade College Library and Google Scholar proved most useful.
Synthesis of Evidence
The available research was either unreliable or suggested that bed alarms are ineffective. It further expressed concern over negative characteristics of the devices.
The literature review made clear the need for dissemination of the results, thereby correcting misconceptions, as bed alarms are in use without supporting evidence. Further apparent was the need for a collection of suggestions in the hope of further fruitful innovation.
A proposal was put forth to create an accredited continuing education course for nurses that, by means of pre- and post-tests and a survey, will be measurable, will educate on the state of affairs, and will solicit enlightenment toward better nursing interventions.
Research illustrated that the use of bed alarms is highly questionable. They are widely used, nonetheless, perhaps because it is felt that doing anything is better than doing nothing. It is dangerous, however, to rely on such a device for patient safety. It is imperative that today’s nurses be educated on the reality of bed alarms and be drafted to help create something better.
Keywords: bed alarm, fall, hospital, nursing