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Hospital  >  Departments  >  Critical Care Medicine  >  Navigating the ICU  >  What are all those tubes and machines?  >  Who is listening to the alarms on all the machines?

Who is listening to the alarms on all the machines?

All team members are paying attention to the alarms. Usually, nurses provide the immediate response because they are the ones spending most time at the bedside.

What happens if the patient’s nurse isn’t close to the bedside when an alarm goes off?

The alarms are also seen and heard from other locations in the ICU. So, if the bedside nurse is helping a colleague with another patient or on break, other team members will be able to see the alarm on a different monitor.

  • If something requires immediate attention, a nurse or another staff member will come to the bedside right away.
  • Alarms of life threatening problems will sound different, and many people in the unit will rush to help.

What if the alarm is going off and no one is doing anything?

Unfortunately, alarms are only a “heads-up” to the team. In fact, 4 out of 5 alarms do not indicate a real problem because they may be due to false readings, patients moving around, or just an indication that something needs to be done later, such as a medication pump will soon finish. Physicians’ immediate assessments are needed in only 1 out of every 20 times an alarm beeps. Feel free to ask the team what is going on.

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Location and contact

Critical Care Medicine

Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
2075 Bayview Avenue, 
D-wing, 1st floor
room D1 08
Toronto, ON M4N 3M5

Phone: 416-480-4522
Fax: 416-480-4999

For information about patients admitted to Sunnybrook's Intensive Care Units, please contact the unit through the hospital switchboard at 416-480-6100