The Unwired Medic

Teaching EMS providers & other public safety pros about using mobile tech to improve their practice, patient care, continuing education, scene safety, general entertainment, & productivity.

Notification Fatigue


Alarm Fatigue…

Some time ago, nurses were studied and found to be suffering from alarm fatigue, which became especially problematic in areas like the ICU, ER, and Cardiac/Telemetry units. Bed alerts were being tuned out. Arrhythmia alarms ignored, and more. Have you spent time admitted to a hospital? How long does it feel like it takes the staff to respond to call lights and IV pump alarms (staffing issues notwithstanding)? Seems like an eternity sometimes. Honestly, it’s not their fault. They cope with their work environment to their ability to tolerate the constant and incessant onslaught of beeps, tones, pages, and dings fairly well, but when is it too much?

Yes, You Too…

How are we in public safety any different? Tones for call outs, pagers, cell notifications, MDTs, radios with squawks and chirps, and then we have our own monitors too, like pulsoxes, ETCO2, glucometers, cardiac monitors, vents, apparatus alarms and chimes, sirens and horns.

Now, lets throw smartphones and fitness bands and smartwatches in to that. Social media, entertainment, fitness, and gaming apps all pining for every moment of our time. “Did you see Joe Nobody’s recent update?” “An event was just posted by this business you visit once a year.” “Traffic congestion on your way to work. Try this route to save 1 minute.” “Special Star Team Event Begins NOW! Login and place on the leaderboard!” “I see you haven’t stepped on your smart scale in a few days. Step on and track your progress towards ignoring your fitness goals now!” How can you be at your best serving the public when you are drowning in alerts and app notifications?

Notification Fatigue…

Today, I decided to sleep in after treating a long-standing migraine, so since I personally have turned off the sound and vibrate notifications on almost everything. I got two text messages out of the blue from a K-12 charter school. My kid goes to one, but not their high school, which implemented their first Varsity team this year. The text program is part of SchoolReach, and the text messages are only used for notices of closures, construction by the schools, Code Reds and Yellows, and other urgent matters. Today they decided we, the parents of all the K-12 students, just had to be told to come support their Varsity team and fill the bleachers.

Simply put, whether a text, an app, or other thing that is deemed worthy of incessant intrusion regardless of relevance, must be dealt with, because none of these platforms gives 2 bowel movements about how you feel today or that you just ended a long, tiring shift, or that you work graveyards.

What can you do?

In my text message notification issue, I promptly responded to school administrators that this expansion qualified as notification fatigue and that the six other ways they keep telling us this information, regardless of campus, are sufficient, and to please stop the madness. App developers, my voice is lost in a sea of apathetic users, so I don’t bother. There are other ways to handle them

For starters, your apps notifications can be configured for silent, vibrate, and audio. They can send push notifications. Good app developers also let you decide how often they can send them. If they don’t offer sufficient options, usually in the phone setting under apps, you can block all their notifications completely. If you can’t see your way to diminishing the amount of notifications you get and are busy responding to most of them, perhaps some self-evaluation is in order. Is it nomophobia? Unsubscribe from text messages and notifications for things that aren’t really important. Do you need an e-mail and text and app and smartwatch notification to tell you what new movie is on Amazon Prime Video or Netflix or Hulu? Do you need to see EVERY social media update that platform’s algorithm deems important enough to ping you on? My kids weren’t that needy as babies. Yours?

Personally, I’ve quit a couple games and more than one social media platform recently. Others I have decided to take a few days or a week away from altogether to force myself to remember there is a sky and sunshine and stars and real people I could be spending my time with. No one will remember me for my social media prowess, but they will remember me for being a part of their lives.

See? Nobody cares!

To rephrase Smokey the Bear, “Only you can prevent unnecessary notification fatigue.”

By the way, don’t forget to subscribe to my blog and social media pages for notifications on my infrequent ramblings and musings. MTFBWY, live long and prosper, and for God’s sake people, let’s be careful out there!

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