We've all been in hospitals that are too noisy. But have you ever been in one that's so quiet that you wonder if anyone is there?
I have, and it was a little eerie. I wonder how the patients felt. Alone, perhaps? Or maybe they liked it. Now that noise is on the HCAHPS questions given to patients, we might be able to answer these things by looking at the data.
Without a doubt, many sounds in hospitals are stressors -- for both patients and staff. Things like overhead pagers, beeping alarms, ice machines, people talking, and commercial TV. The design of the physical environment can help mask and even reduce these sounds, but creating operational protocols that address the issue is another story.
Recently, the Joint Commission released a "Sentinel Event Alert" report claiming that as a result of a barrage of alarm signals (many of which are not needed) that clinicians suffer from "alarm fatigue" that may be causing harm to patients. An estimated 85-99% of alarm signals do not require clinical intervention.
This is not surprising. And there are some good solutions offered up in the Joint Commission report. Other good reports/white papers worth reading on the topic of reducing noise in hospitals are:
- The Beryl Institute: "Charting a Course to Quiet: Addressing the Challenge of Noise in Hospitals."
- The Center for Health Design: "Validating Acoustic Guidelines for Healthcare Facilities--Evidence-Based Design Meets Evidence-Based Medicine: The Sound Sleep Study"
- Healing HealthCare Systems: "Hospital Noise and the Patient Experience: Seven Ways to Create and Maintain a Quieter Environment"
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