One of the major concerns in nursing is that many patients claim they were frequently disturbed when trying to get sleep and rest. Alarm machines sounding, charts clattering, people talking along hallways, the transferring of patient reports between nurses at end of shifts and discussions among care providers all contribute to noise in healthcare settings.

In that sense, hospitals are inherently recognised as a noisy place. Unfortunately, all these frequent disruptions make hospitals a tough place for patients to get enough sleep.

In fact, it has been noted in many studies that hospital noises could bring detrimental effects on patient’s recovery as it takes a toll on patient’s sleep quality. The increased attention with regards to noises in the nursing unit has prompted nurses to take action.

Implement ‘quiet hours’ in every nursing unit

Implementing this to increase the sleep adequacy among patients is one of the best nursing innovations so far. To begin, the unit leaders and the staff representatives will determine what hour during the day and night that would least interfere their work.

Staffs are not allowed to go into patients’ rooms unless they are needed. During this time, all the doors of patients’ rooms will be closed (except those occupied by patients with a high fall risk) and lights will be dim.

When looking at the feedback from patients and staffs, a survey examined on patient satisfaction for ‘quiet hour’ implementation has noted numerous positive responses. One patient said, “I really liked the quiet hour. It gave time for my husband to go eat without fear of missing the doctor. It also gave me the quiet I needed to rest.”

Majority of staffs were also satisfied with this innovation, as one representative nurse indicated, “It is nice to have a break from the constant activity.”

“Our patients get to rest, and we are happier with our jobs,” said another nurse. “It is a win–win for everyone”.

Separate patients in a semi-private room

In some circumstances, patients can be moved from multi-bed patient rooms to semi-private rooms. The highest level of noise in multi-bed patient rooms make patients less likely to choose this room.

Some possible factors are recognised, like compact occupancy fuelled with frequent consultations, visitors, and patient communication with other patients or staff members. With that, not surprisingly, patients regularly reported that it was difficult to get rest and sleep, which ultimately affects the rate of recovery and length of stay at a hospital.

Consider other noise reduction interventions

Along with implementing ‘quiet hour’ and moving patients into the semi-private room, nursing initiatives to reduce noises and improve sleep quality will be profoundly success when nurses at every level consider the other noise reduction interventions.

This includes informing relatives to pick up phone calls in waiting areas instead of patient’s room, using tiny flashlights during night observations, installing soft door closers and removing rubber transitions between carpet and tile flooring at all doorways to decrease equipment noise.

To assist in controlling hospital noise that cannot be eliminated, consider providing sleep masks and earplugs to patients, depending on their condition and care needs.

Environmental causes should not be underestimated. As fragmented sleep negatively impacts the patient recovery process and general health, nurses should ensure the care environment is comfortable.

Whenever possible, nurses can discuss with patients to find out their sleep problems and the sources of noise as a means to minimise the noise level. Hence, it is important for nurses to keep updates with noises reduction practices like a ‘quiet hour’ as it improves patients’ sleep quality. MIMS

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Ulrich, R., Zimring, C., Zhu, X., DuBose J., March, H., March, Y., Quan, X., Joseph A. (2008). A Review of the Research Literature on Evidence-Based Healthcare Design. Health Environments Research & Design Journal, 1(3), 61-111.