SHHH! Silent Hospitals Help Healing

quiet at night

From the early times and struggles of nurse Florence Nightingale to the current day and times, noise has remained a challenge for patients and hospitals across the nation. Nightingale, considered the founder of modern nursing, wrote in 1859 in her now famous Notes on Nursing that “Necessary noise is that which damages the patient. Unnecessary noise is the cruelest absence of care.”

As hospitals are confronted with the reality that noise contributes to the dissatisfaction of patients, efforts are ongoing to make improvement in patient satisfaction scores. Press Ganey, a leading provider of patient experience measurement, performance analytics and strategic advisory solutions for healthcare organizations, found in 2000 that patients complain about noise two times more often than about anything else in a hospital, including the food.

In 2015, Kaiser Health News reported that noise remained at the top of the list of patient complaints and at the bottom of the list for HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) scores.

HCAHPS is a patient satisfaction survey required by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for all hospitals in the United States.

At Lompoc Valley Medical Center: Hospital, we are committed to improving the quality of care and the patient/family experience. We have recently embarked on an initiative to encourage a quieter hospital to promote patient healing. Studies have shown that high levels of sound can have negative physical and psychological effects on patients, disrupting sleep, increasing stress and decreasing patient’s confidence in the competence of their caregivers (American Journal of Nursing, February 2004). Other research has shown that noise can cause a negative influence on patient recovery times as well as increases in patient’s blood pressure and risk for heart attacks. (University of Michigan News Service, November 2005).

In the hospital environment where people are already ill and psychologically stressed, unnecessary noise can be harmful to their healing.

When you come to LVMC you will notice our new “Shhh… Silent Hospitals Help Healing” posters and displays. Using our own staff as models, the signs are being displayed throughout the acute hospital to encourage staff, visitors, and patients to help promote a quiet environment for everyone. Planning is underway for a pilot program that will include a daily visit with our patients to ask them about their perception of the noise in the hospital and to provide support and make recommendations that will help with quietness and promote healing. Other efforts are being made, such as limiting overhead paging and keeping hand-held devices – such as cell phones or nursing phones -- on vibrate.

In conjunction with National Patient Safety Goals, LVMC has reviewed and revised policies related to medical equipment to ensure the alarms are audible for medical and nursing staff, while the sound is low enough to minimize disruption to the patient.

We want the community and our patients to know “We are listening.” Be assured, we will actively promote quietness at the LVMC and we will continue to provide high-quality care in a safe, healing environment.

About the Author

Author: Judy Begley, RN MSN, Quality Improvement Nurse

Judy Begley is a Quality Improvement Nurse at LVMC. She has been employed at LVMC for three years, and is responsible for helping the hospital remain compliant with quality and safety measures. She is also responsible for submitting data to external regulatory agencies. Begley has been a registered nurse for almost 30 years, and has a Master of Science degree in Nursing and a certification in Nurse Midwifery. She previously was director of perinatal services at a county hospital in California and later became Chief Nursing Officer. She previously worked in commercial swordfishing in the Santa Barbara Channel.

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