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Healthcare professionals and researchers work towards quieter hospitals
08.07.2012The New York Times published a comprehensive article examining the age-old problem of hospital patients being unable to get a good night's rest as busy healthcare professionals such as attending physicians and hospitalists go about their work.
However, researchers in the healthcare field are searching for solutions to the issue. The Times points out that a coalition of organizations including the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration participated in a 2011 conference to discuss the unavoidable problems resulting from traditional alarm systems. Their goal was to devise potentially wireless silent alarms by 2017. The new systems would never, they hope, interrupt patients' sleep or overwhelm nurses and emergency department physicians with repeated or simultaneous alarms.
Similar campaigns to reduce background noise at hospitals have been enacted at a handful of healthcare institutions. For example, the Silent Hospitals Help Healing program has been implemented at Stanford Hospital, Penobscot Valley Hospital enacted the Help Us Support Healing initiative, and the Too Loud program was developed at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center (NBIMC).
"Educating staff members about the importance of quiet at night has proven to be one of the best ways to reduce noise. A rested body heals faster, and the staff at the Beth is taking a proactive approach to creating a more peaceful nighttime environment for our patients," said John A. Brennan, president and chief executive officer of the NBIMC, in a statement.
The Times directs readers to research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in June of this year that focuses on the sleep deprivation of hospital patients. Scientists exposed 12 sleeping subjects to 14 sounds sometimes audible in hospital settings, while monitoring their brain waves. The abstract lists voices, intravenous alarms, a phone ringing, the churning of an ice machine, automobile traffic and the whooshing of helicopter blades as examples. Though the stage of REM sleep was a major determining factor in how much the sounds affected study participants, the study says electronic noises proved the most disturbing to sleep and resulted in elevated heart rates.
"Sleep is such a powerful source of resilience. Its absence results in a degradation of that resilience. We need to begin grouping sleep with all the other things we do to make patients better," said Orfeu M. Buxton, assistant professor in the division of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School, quoted by The New York Times.
The study notes that its subjects were all healthy, meaning the effects on hospital patients could be more severe.
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