Monster trucks and dress shoes
February 4, 2004 -- Today Newsday and others posted a very good Associated Press story by Joshua Freed about a Mayo Clinic nursing study published in this month's American Journal of Nursing that included findings and ways to reduce hospital noise so loud that it made it "nearly impossible for patients to sleep." Though we would not expect the mainstream press to realize it, this strikes us as important research that only nurses are likely to have conceived and conducted.
Mayo Clinic nurse Cheryl Cmiel initiated the study following patient complaints. She and fellow researchers placed noise-measuring devices in empty patient rooms at the clinic during the night without notifying staff members. They found average noise readings of 45 decibels, and peak readings of 113, usually around the 7:00 a.m. nursing shift change. Freed notes that a chain saw can produce 120 decibels. Cmiel and fellow researcher Dawn Gasser also slept overnight in hospital rooms set up with equipment normally found in a thoracic unit. Gasser was awakened at 1:15 a.m. by her roommate's pump alarm, at 3:15 a.m. by a portable X-ray that entered the room sounding like "an oversized power tool," and at 6:10 a.m. by "the tapping of a doctor's dress shoes in the hallway."
Nurse-driven noise reduction efforts at the Clinic brought the average level to 42 decibels and, more strikingly, the peak to 86 decibels. These efforts included closing doors, cushioning metal chart holders to reduce clipboard clatter, posting signs requesting quiet, adjusting the scheduling of nightly X-rays, and replacing roll-type paper towel dispensers with folding towel dispensers.
Freed also notes that other hospitals have "similar or worse noise problems." He cites post-partum units at two different Minneapolis hospitals: one unit is next to the hospital's helipad, and the other is across the street from the Metrodome, which hosts Twins night baseball games, dirt bike races, and "monster truck rallies."
Freed quotes Cmiel noting how difficult it would be for patients coping with pain and tubes coming out of their bodies to be awakened by such events. He might have explored how difficult it can be for hospital patients to sleep during the day because of all the surrounding activity, and how critical rest and pain control can be to patient recovery. That would have underlined just how important these findings and recommendations are, which might not be obvious to the average reader.
Nursing research does not receive enough attention from the mainstream press, and the Center commends Freed, AP, all the publications who ran this story, and of course AJN, which we assume was responsible for publicizing the study.
See AP writer Joshua Freed's article "Night Hospital Din Pains Patients" in the February 4 Newsday. See more information on the study from the Mayo Clinic. The American Journal of Nursing article does not yet appear to be available online.
Also see: "Syracuse-area hospitals aim to reduce noise" by James T. Mulder posted on The Post-Standard website July 28, 2009 about the "the Yacker Tracker" at St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center in Syracuse.
Also see: "Hospital Noise Puts Patients at Risk" by Laura Wallis in the April 2012 edition of the American Journal of Nursing.