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Hospitals no place to get rest, study shows

Patients who have complained they cannot get any rest in noisy hospitals were vindicated on Wednesday with a report confirming that the racket on hospital wards can be as loud as a rock concert.
/ Source: Reuters

Patients who have complained they cannot get any rest in noisy hospitals were vindicated on Wednesday with a report confirming that the racket on hospital wards can be as loud as a rock concert.

Nurses who volunteered to sleep in hospital rooms found out that rest can be almost impossible -- especially during staff shift changes.

“We wanted to experience the patient’s perspective, so we became patients for one night,” said Cheryl Cmiel of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota, who helped lead the study.

“We got an earful.”

As loud as a chain saw
Noise readings reached as high as 113 decibels -- about as much noise as a rock concert or chain saw makes, Cmiel and colleagues report in the February issue of American Journal of Nursing.

The worst ruckus came at the morning shift change, around 7 a.m., although the 11 p.m. shift change also was noisy.

This is obviously not good, Cmiel said.

“Adequate sleep is important to the healing process, and sleeping in the hospital is notoriously difficult,” she said in a statement.

But they did find ways to cut down the noise, including moving staff conferences at shift change to an enclosed room, instead of at the open nurses’ desk, putting foam rubber padding in the chart holders outside patient rooms, and simply closing the doors to patients’ rooms.

Nurses were also advised to follow some common-sense measures such as doing nightly x-rays at 10 p.m. instead of waking patients at 3 a.m. and using flashlights instead of overhead lights when entering patients’ rooms at night.

After these changes were made, the noise level fell to 86 decibels at shift change, Cmiel’s team reported. That is an 80 percent reduction in noise levels, but still equivalent to the noise made by a power lawn mower, according to the American Academy of Audiology