The hostile environment of the intensive care unit

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Intensive care units (ICUs) were developed for patients with special needs and include an array of technology to support medical care. However, basic lessons in ergonomics, human factors, and human performance fail to propagate in this complex medical environment. Complicated, error-prone devices are commonly used. There are too many patient data for one person to process effectively. Lighting, ambient noise, and scheduling all result in provider and patient stress. These difficult working conditions make errors more probable and are risk factors for provider burnout and negative outcomes for patients. Auditory alarms on ICU equipment, ICU syndrome, and needle sticks are discussed as examples of such problems.

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