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Hospital noise still an issue for patient care

Thursday August 21, 2014
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Noisy nurses were the main culprits of patients losing two hours of sleep a night at an Australian hospital, a hospital-wide survey of patient sleeping habits found.

The six-month study was conducted at Canberra Hospital, located in Australia’s capital city, according to an Aug. 9 article in the Canberra Times. The sleep review examined conditions across 15 clinical areas of the facility, according to the news report. More than 140 patients and 81 nurses were questioned about patients’ sleep, the report stated. Although research also looked at sleeping environments and factors such as temperature changes and light, noise was found to be the biggest cause of increased waking, the article said.

Noise levels in clinical settings were found to be 11 to 25 decibels higher than the recommended decibels for nighttime noise by the World Health Organization, the report stated. The WHO recommends nocturnal noise to be no higher than 30 decibels.

Health officials said a well-intentioned nursing staff was the biggest contributor to noise levels at Canberra Hospital, where staff often congregate around nursing stations to discuss care and planning, according to the newspaper.

Reducing noise in hospitals has long been an issue for healthcare facilities. A 2010 study by Nursing Administration Quarterly on hospital noise found that noise is an environmental stressor that can have physiological and psychological effects. The study also showed that hospital noise levels often exceed noise level recommendations and can increase patient complications, according to the study.

Researchers at the University of Arizona and UC San Diego started working on ways to reduce noise levels earlier this year, according to KPBS in San Diego. Eve Edelstein, an associate professor at the University of Arizona has measured noise levels in EDs during shift changes. Between monitoring machines and other equipment, EKG alarms, overhead announcements, ventilator systems and nurses discussing patient statuses as they change shifts, noise levels at times reached as high as 100 to 110 decibels — about as loud as a jet engine, Edelstein found.

Edelstein, a neuroscientist and architect, is collaborating with UC San Diego music and sonic arts professor Peter Otto, who developed a device dubbed the “sound bender,” KPBS reported in March. With 12 speakers, the device can direct sound like a laser beam, which could be directed a nursing station.

“We’d like to be able to do announcements that just the nurses can hear and that are not going to wake up patients when they’re dozing,” Otto said in the KPBS report.

Read more about the Australian study at http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/noisy-nurses-blamed-for-sleep-loss-in-canberra-hospital-study-20140809-100z9b.html.


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