Archive for June, 2013

Exploring the Effects of Hospital Noise

Monday, June 17th, 2013

We’ve been talking about hospital noise quite a bit lately. It may seem odd to focus on it so much, but studies are showing that hospital noise has more of an impact than we ever before believed or understood.

According to the NIH, the effects of hospital noise are profound. “The body responds to noise in the same way it responds to stress and overtime can impair health.” We’ve discussed how noise impacts patients in the hospital, but what we haven’t really thought about is how noise impacts the nurses themselves.

Nurses themselves are subjected to the noises from each and every hospital room they visit. They also have alarms, phones, and alert systems at their stations between rooms. In some areas, there have been studies as to the effectiveness of alarms when nurses are dulled to the noise – making them less likely to respond to critical care needs in a timely manner simply because they are no longer processing the sounds. We also have to wonder if the nurses are suffering additional stress throughout their lives simply because of the additional sound exposure.

One thing is for sure. We can’t have silent hospitals. That said, we have to find new ways to ensure nurse and patients can communicate without creating stress – for either.

What do you think?

Decreased Hospital Noise Improves Patient Health

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

Anyone who has been in the hospital – for a day or for days on end – knows how difficult it is to get any rest while you’re there. You’re uncomfortable from your illness; you’re hooked up to a ton of machines; and if you are lucky enough to fall asleep, the nurses will wake you up pretty quickly  to take your vitals or do some other type of work with you. Add to that the sound of the machines beeping, voices of hushed conversations, the moaning of other patients, and other odd noises and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

According to this NY TIMES article, that’s exactly how some patients feel. One woman claimed she felt as though she gets sicker when she’s in the hospital because she can’t get any rest. So while the doctors are, in essence, pumping you full of meds to treat your condition, your lack of rest is causing fatigue – which ultimately wears down your immune system. No wonder there are so many hospital born infections.

Those who are sleeping need sleep. Sounds cause changes in their brain patterns, according to studies. And when a patient is jarred out of his sleep, his heart rate automatically rises in response to stress (which also impacts levels of adrenaline). People who are away from home are already stressed and on high alert, so loud noises don’t help – at all.

Recent changes in hospital policy may change the way patients feel. As hospitals build new locations, they’re focused on a few things. Sadly, one of those things is the customer rating system – a system that insurance companies may ultimately be able to use to determine how much to reimburse hospitals for their services. As a result, hospitals are looking to make your stay more comfortable. In places where sharing a room was once common, individual rooms that may leave you wondering if your hospital has installed some soundproofing are now the norm. You’ll hear the sounds of your own machines, but the sounds from other people are more dulled. And yes, your nurse will still have to wake you up, but she won’t wake you up while she’s working with someone else.