Cutting hospital noise helps healing

ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — If you find hospital food a bit annoying, hospital noise and overnight interruptions can really make you cranky. That sleep deprivation impedes the healing process. Studies prove this, and hospitals are doing what they can to pipe things down, with results that are encouraging.

Seton’s Round Rock Medical Center’s ICU has 26 rooms, with the average stay lasting three days. Getting a good night’s sleep is no laughing matter, and the patients can give staff an earful.

ICU nurse Davong Rattanasavanh says patients tell her things like: “It’s so loud in here. People are always moving outside in the hallways. It’s constant noise. I can’t sleep. I want to go home.”

They’ve heard the complaints, read the studies and decided to act.

“If you’re not sleeping well you’re not able to heal as well,” RRMC Nursing Manager Oscar Leyva explained. “We want our patients to have the energy to do the vigorous things that require energy in rehab.”

You could call it “Campaign Shhhh.” Staff now provide patients with things like ear plugs, sleeping masks and white noise machines to cover the racket. Nurses say they are getting positive feedback.

“They tell us this is the quietest hospital they’ve ever been in,” Leyva said. “People appreciate the extra effort.”

Round Rock Medical Center’s ICU keeps searching for ways to reduce noise. They even go around with a decibel meter. Health experts recommend an ICU be at 35-40 decibels, but most range from 60 to 80 decibels.

“We know the rooms are quiet, but it’s outside the room we can impact,” Nurse Lisa Votti said. “It’s cost effective and easy to do.”

That can include quieter trolleys, less swishing of room curtains, fewer interruptions and even slowing automatic door closings to reduce their final slam.

Stephanie Albertson has been recovering in ICU for about a week. She uses a fan and sleeping mask.

“Other places you get woken up during the night to take vital signs,” she said. “The nurses here are very aware of the times I’m asleep and don’t come in to bother me. It’s definitely quiet enough for me.”

Seton Round Rock may expand their quiet campaign to other floors in the hospital. As the saying goes, doctors and nurses should be seen, not heard.

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