What can we do to reduce noise? There are many attempts to reduce noise in hospitals. Reducing noise should improve the patient experience and improve HCAHP scores. Just as important and a bi-product of noise is patient anxiety! Patients unexpectedly find themselves in a new setting, away from home, facing the unknown in the form of a health condition, unfamiliar with their surroundings or the routine. Activity going on all around them that they do not understand:
What are all these alarms for? Did someone die? Are they for me?
Why does the nurse keep leaving my room to talk on the phone? Is it my doctor? Why don’t they want me to hear?
They are always getting calls when they are treating me and leaving the room.
Are they understaffed? If I need assistance, will it be available?
That’s a new alarm sound! What does it mean? I don’t see any nurses anywhere? What is going on?
Why is this machine attached to me beeping? What does it mean? Am I taking a turn for the worst? Should I call my nurse? Where are they?
I wish my doctor would call. I asked the nurse to notify him I’m having a new pain. The nurse says they can’t do anything without the doctor’s approval. When will they contact him? Why hasn’t he got back to them? Can’t they call him again?
Why didn’t the nurse answer her phone when she was in my room? Maybe it was my doctor?
Too often caregivers and the communication tools they are given only add to the anxiety.
Alarms all sounding the same and difficult to differentiate their urgency are heard throughout every hospital unit. Nurses go home exhausted from alarm fatigue. Patients lay in bed awakened at all hours of the day and night with anxiety at what the cacophony of alarms and other noises mean.
Nurses are provided phones as the main tool to communicate with other caregivers, departments, and doctors. Unfortunately HIPAA requires they do not talk of clinical matters in front of a patient. The phone causes numerous interruptions for nurses treating patients requiring they leave the room. If they do not answer the phone alternate strategies of overhead paging, and attempts to find them take over.
Today’s technology offers many other solutions:
Alarm management tools can make sense of the numerous disjointed devices producing the cacophony of alarm noise.
Sophisticated nurse text messaging (similar to what is available on smartphones) can eliminate 78% of ringing telephone calls, almost all overhead paging and the potential for missed patient requests.
When looking to reduce noise, consider improving patient anxiety as well. It will more than give you justification and urgency to proceed and result in a better environment for all.