St. Charles has installed a Yacker Tracker similar to this one at Akron General Medical Center in Ohio. (Photo credit: The Plain Dealer)
Nationwide, patients complain twice as often about noise in hospitals as they do about any other part of their stay. In fact, researchers at Harvard Medical School found that as the overall noise of a hospital increases, sleep is more likely to be disrupted. When their sleep was disrupted, their heart rates increased.
To help draw attention to this issue, St. Charles Health System has launched its “quiet campaign” to address noise in its facilities. The health system has spent the past several months working to make equipment quieter, to find ways to remind staff to lower their voices and to encourage visitors to allow patients time to rest in a quiet space.
“Family and visitors are good for the healing process, but we still need to have our quiet at night,” said Nancy Simonson, manager of the ortho/neuro unit at St. Charles Bend, who has led the campaign for the health system. “Quiet is also good for healing. As the noise level goes up, patients become anxious, which can lead to elevated heart rates and blood pressure. The physiological aspects of healing are impacted negatively by noise.”
In addition, patients may notice new Yacker Tracker devices in the hospitals that resemble stoplights. These devices monitor decibel levels and the light changes from green to yellow to red as the level increases.
“When it gets to a certain decibel it will say, ‘Quiet please,’” Simonson said. “Just the other day a little girl who was 2 or 3 was crying in the waiting area near our reception desk. The Yacker Tracker went off and she started laughing and stopped fussing.”
While the staff has made many changes, St. Charles is also asking patients and visitors for their help in improving the quiet, healing atmosphere at the hospitals in Bend, Redmond and Prineville. Simonson said that patients are encouraged to tell caregivers if their conversations are too loud. In return, caregivers will be asking parents to supervise children who are visiting at all times and may limit visitors so patients can rest.