Noise pollution in hospitals is a major issue that can lead directly to poor patient outcomes. Some of these outcomes include decreased healing leading to more time spent in the hospital and an increased risk of acquiring a nosocomial infection, an increased risk of cardiac arrest due to elevated blood pressure, poor psychiatric outcomes stemming from disrupted sleep and anxiety, and the overall negative effects associated with long term hospitalization and short term sleep deprivation.
Noise pollution in hospitals has been demonstrated to wake vulnerable patients up from sleep dozens of times throughout the night. This is to say nothing about the once hourly checks performed by nursing staff that may awaken a patient from their sleep. The international standard for noise in intensive care units and emergency rooms is between 35-45 decibels. The World Health Organization recommends that noise levels not exceed 30 decibels over the night time hours. Sadly, noise levels in intensive care units tend to average between 60-62 decibels, with some maximum measurements reaching an astonishing 85-92 decibel maximum. Anything louder than 85 decibels has been shown to do damage to one’s hearing. This not only endangers patient’s hearing – staff are exposed to these noise levels for a far more prolonged period which may lead to workplace related hearing loss and associated disability.
Noise levels in hospitals are not going down, despite these recommendations and the dire state of affairs. In fact, noise levels have been rising consistently since 1960 during the night at a rate of 0.42 decibels per year. In 1960, the average noise level in an emergency room or intensive care unit at night was 42 decibels. By 2005, the average noise level throughout the night was 60 decibels in intensive care units. It is very clear that in an environment such as this, restful sleep can be next to impossible.
Noise pollution also has an effect on patient’s families. High levels on in hospital noise raise the already high stress levels felt by families and patients. It also makes it harder for patients, families, and staff to communicate with one other effectively. This can lead to patient needs not being communicated effectively to staff, and may lead to poor outcomes and overall frustration with the hospital experience.
Patient privacy screens like the Kwickscreen can help to mitigate these high levels of noise in conjunction with other measures that staff and administrators can take in the interest of patient welfare. Patient privacy screens can serve as a buffer between the patient and the ambient noises around them. Staff can also take measures to reduce the negative effects of excessive noise.
During the night, nurses can limit their interactions with patients during their rounds if it requires awakening the patient. Patient privacy screens like the Kwickscreen can be made semi-translucent, allowing staff to check on their patients during the night without needing to rouse them from sleep. Staff and administration can also assist patients throughout the night by enforcing a strict “quiet hours” policy during which they speak in more hushed tones and limit noise making procedures.
Noise pollution is a serious problem in America’s intensive care units and emergency departments, but it doesn’t have to be. Contact us today to find out more about how the Kwickscreen can help your patients.