Hospitals across the nation are constantly being challenged to reduce noise and create quiet environments for their patients rest and recover.
With hospitals running around-the-clock, they are busy hubs of activities day and night. Noises come in many forms, from patient monitoring equipment through to overhead announcements, carts and beds being wheeled from one location to another as well as staff and patients talking and so on.
It’s been found that the average noise levels in hospitals have increased by 15 decibels over the last 40 years and sit at around 70 decibels. This is well above the recommended limit of 35 decibels for a healing environment set by the World Health Organization.
Effects of noise on patients can include elevated blood pressure, increased heart rate and an increased metabolism. It can also exacerbate conditions such as a weakened immune system, delirium and agitation.
Researchers have also found that exposure to noise in hospital has psychological and physiological effects that slow rates of recovery and lengthen hospital stays.
Excess noise and the inability to get a decent rest while in a hospital is one of the most common issues of patient dissatisfaction voiced in feedback to hospital administration.
There are lots of steps your hospital can take to address excess noise, and new initiatives that can be introduced to eliminate it.
After conducting a thorough assessment and audit of all sources of noise in your hospital, these are some of the changes that you can consider introducing to improve outcomes:
- Place signs that remind patients, staff and visitors to be aware of their speaking tones and encourage them to speak quietly
- Provide patients with headsets for televisions and tablets
- Provide patients with complimentary earplugs
- Introduce wireless headsets to replace overhead paging systems
- Introduce official patient sleep hours in wards and units where vital sign checks aren’t required to be routinely checked
- Establish quiet hours in inpatient areas and require that all hallway
- conversations are kept to a minimum during these hours
- Coordinate care so that unnecessary entry into patient rooms doesn’t happen during these hours
- Place screens between patients made from sound-absorbent material
- Decentralize work stations away from patient rooms
- Staff should set their pagers to vibrate wherever possible
- Encourage staff, visitors and patients to set their cell phones to vibrate
- Lower the ringer volume on fixed line telephones
- Encourage staff to wear soft-soled shoes to reduce hallway noise
- Schedule cleaning times for hours when patients aren’t going to be sleeping
- Restock supplies earlier in the evening rather than later at night while patients are attempting to sleep
- Purchase quieter equipment or replace older equipment, eg: that creaks.
- Invest in newer service carts that are quieter and more durable
- When refurbishing or upgrading your hospital, include sound-absorbing materials
- Some equipment with alarm indicators is overly sensitive and produce many false alarms – have staff get to know their equipment well to overcome “alarm fatigue”
- Some equipment can be replaced with newer systems that don’t use audible signals