Due to more understanding of the correlation between noise and patient wellness, noise control is the focal point of hospital development and refurbishment in many American hospitals. Australian hospitals will eventually follow international lead to focus on sound control in hospitals.
What are some noise sources?
There are many noise sources in hospitals:
- Alarms from medical machines
- Mechanical plant noise – e.g. air conditioning systems
- Staff and patient conversations
- TVs, vacuum cleaners etc
Alarm fatigue has become so profound in hospitals that it has become a speciality study area; these specialists believe there is a war raging in hospitals – a decibel war.
Research indicates that a staggering 95% of alarm noise stems from user error, faulty sensors or poorly maintained equipment and does not need an immediate call to action, which is why machines are left beeping while medical staff work with other patients.
New technologies are available where the alarms do not need to beep at the patients beside – the alert goes directly to a smart device registered to medical staff. This technology drastically reduces the amount of noise for patients and medical staff.
Curtains and partitions can only do so much when protecting a patient from noise, primarily when the noise is from a mechanical plant outside the hospital. At the time of construction, the best solution would be to install the mechanical plant away from patient rooms.
However, where noisy mechanical plant equipment is nearby to wards and patient areas, reducing noise impacts to them is as simple as engaging an industrial acoustics specialist like our parent company Flexshield to custom design and install an industrial noise control solution.
Medical staff conversations
Where possible, situate nurses’ stations away from patient rooms. Noise from nurses’ stations is one of the main complaints from patients for disrupting their recovery, especially during the hand over periods. If relocating the nurses’ station is not a viable option, then isolating the noise source with acoustic panels will improve the amount of noise transmission. Acoustic solutions such as Calando Desk or Calando Booth can surround the noise source making a more comfortable environment.
The design phase in many new hospital projects now encompasses the critical component of noise. Designers have a greater understanding of the duties performed by medical facility employees and design the hospital around their duties and patient comfort. Jean Elrick, MD, Mass Generals Senior VP of Administration said, “I don’t care what the building looks like: I care what it does”. The hospital Jean is referring to is Mass General’s Lunder Building where elevators, waiting rooms, and staff rooms are along the circulation spine. Patient rooms are staggered in a sawtooth pattern to attenuate sound and provide more privacy. This sawtooth set up protects patients from noise disruptions.
Noise impacts on medical staff and patients
Unfavourable outcomes will occur for hospital staff and patients if noise levels remain high.
Some impacts on medical staff from working in a noisy environment may include:
- Increased stress
- Reduced ability to concentrate
- Medical and nursing errors
A few of the effects on patients when recovering in a noisy space include:
- Sleep deprivation
- Greater anxiety
- Heightened blood pressure, respiration and heart rates
Whether you are building a new hospital or retrofitting an existing space, the best starting point to find and mitigate erratic sounds is to engage an acoustic engineer – such as AcousTech.
While the acoustic engineer completes modelling and recommendations on noise control measures, educate staff on better to communicate around patients.
Remember – measure your results. Improving noise control in a medical space will equate to a marked reduction in complaints, calls for assistance at night and requests for pain medication.
For more information, contact the knowledgeable team at Avenue Interior Systems on 1300 827 177.