Created By: Spark9May 9, 2012 Last Edited By: OreochanJanuary 12, 2013

Hospital Alarm Urgency

When an alarm sounds in the hospital, everybody drops what they're doing immediately to help out.

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My first code. See, here's how it works: someone's heart fails, they beep everyone. The first doctor in has to run the room, tell everyone what to do, basically decide if the patient lives or dies.
-- J.D.

This involves dropping everything at the sound of an alarm. This is usually because the patient has entered cardiac arrest.

Sometimes, fiction shows us the world not as it is, but as we wish it could be. Such is the case when in a medical setting the silence around a patient's bed is broken by the shrill shock of a monitor alarm, causing all the medical providers in the area to immediately direct their attention to the problem which caused the alarm, which is invariably real and serious.

Expect to see tense doctors and nurses making tough decisions. If the doctor pauses for a second, a nurse will remind them that they have to make a decision quickly. This is usually followed by the Magical Defibrillator. The scene will end with a pulse returning, in which case everyone present will be greatly relived. Or the patient dies after many attempts.

Sadly, this is a clear failure. Bedside alarms are so pervasive in the hospital that the people working there learn to largely ignore them. "False positives" in the form of loose leads, sensing devices removed, tubing kinked, or insignificant perturbations of vital signs are far more common than acute emergencies. Nurses pay attention to the alarms of their own patients, but it's their job to determine whether a real problem exists, so the whole floor need not come running at the sound of every beep.

Sometimes the patient themselves, rather than being unconscious or dying, will call the nurse to report that an alarm is going off. Usually this is because it has woken them up, has been going long enough to get really annoying, or is making it hard to hear the TV.

Compare Red Alert



Live Action TV
  • Played with a few ways on Scrubs:
    • In the pilot episode, JD gets his first code. We see a shot of him running down the hallway, and in to a room. Turns out it's a closet where he has gone to hide. This also turns out to be a subversion, as Turk ends up shocking the guy, who turned out to have fallen asleep attached to a faulty monitor.
    • In the episode "One in Three", we cut to response shots of the three protagonists as a single beep alerts them that their patients' hearts have stopped.
    • In another episode, the Janitor pranks the doctors by creating a device that plays the flatline sound. Dr. Kelso is not amused.
  • Happens all the time on Greys Anatomy.
    • This was the former Trope Namer, which should tell you something about how frequently it occurs.
  • Also happens quite a bit on House.
  • ER, of course, is the granddaddy of 'em all.

Western Animation
  • Hospitals are apparently so boring in My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic that during a break-in, the nurses and even the mental patients will drop everything to help the security guards fend off the burglar.
    • Okay, the mental patient will probably chase anyone, but the rest of them don't have an excuse.
Community Feedback Replies: 16
  • May 9, 2012
    You should put a link to the TRS thread this comes from:
  • May 9, 2012
    Grey's Anatomy is no longer the Trope Namer, so the entry no longer makes sense.
  • August 16, 2012
    Bumping this, as a TRS thread is waiting on it.
  • August 16, 2012
    Suggesting Code Blue as a trope name.
  • November 24, 2012
    Is this launchready, or are there issues to be addressed?
  • December 1, 2012
    Bump for more hats/comments.
  • December 1, 2012
    Compare Red Alert.
  • December 7, 2012
    This really needs more examples.
  • December 8, 2012
    This trope has the same problem as the TRS it swamped from: it's too narrow. Seems about bedside alarms, and how the nurses/doctors always think they are false. Patients think otherwise.

    PS. Okay if I do major edits?
  • December 8, 2012
    How do you plan to broaden this trope?
  • December 8, 2012
    Happens several times in every episode of Emergency!, so if ER is the "granddaddy of them all", Emergency! is the great-great-grandfather.
  • December 8, 2012
    ^Details, please.
  • December 9, 2012
    Is the YKTTW suppose to replace the trope in question? If not, the YKTTW is copy-and-pasted from the trope in question.

    ^^^Might be better to show you,since I got another reason to change the description.
  • December 9, 2012
    No one seems to be in charge here, so I guess you can go ahead.
  • December 14, 2012
    Bump. More and better examples, please!
  • January 12, 2013
    Ok, I'll have to reboot this. Maybe then it'll work.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable