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St. Luke's goes quietly about its business

Hospital hopes to reduce noise to help patients heal faster

April 15, 2009

Silent Hospitals Help Healing is a new campaign to help patients mend faster by reducing noise at Aurora St. Luke's South Shore hospital.

One of the biggest complaints patients have at hospitals is noise, according to information from the hospital.

After researching the topic and its effects on patients, staff learned that noise not only prolongs healing in patients, but it also affects caregivers, said Cindy Lima, manager of patient care.

"It elevates blood pressure and pulse rate," she said.

Noise can even impact patient's safety, causing sleep deprivation, which contributes to falls and confusion, she said.

Increased technology brings even more noise to hospitals.

Alarming situation

'"We have alarms on virtually everything, especially in the (Intensive Care Unit) and even on the floors, there are bed alarms, chair alarms and toiletry alarms," Lima said.

After reading a plethora of literature on the topic, a hospital staff action committee decided to launch a campaign to deter noise.

They are asking everyone - personnel, patients and visitors - to do their part in reducing noise levels, whether it is replacing hammers with hand-held pill crushers, replacing door mechanisms with rubber material to muffle the sound of it slamming shut or having people in the hallways lower their voices.

Staff has strategically placed signage reminding people to be quiet throughout the hospital. Workers have also purchased buttons to raise awareness of the "SHHH" campaign.

Carolynn Glocka, vice president of nursing and chief administrative, said the quiet emphasis in hospitals has fallen to the wayside as a result of changes in society and increased technology.

Because of the campaign, Glocka has been paying more attention to "the little things" that make a difference such as the shoes she wears for work.

"We have to lead by example," she said.

Yacker trackers

Hospital personnel have installed "yacker trackers," noise detectors, throughout the ceilings of the hospital to monitor the levels of noise in various areas.

When the first measurements were done, the detectors showed the South Shore hospital had a daily average of 55 decibels with frequent spikes up to 70 decibels. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends the average noise in hospitals to be less than 45 decibels during the day and 35 decibels at night.

"We're a little disappointed ... even with a low census it wasn't good," Lima said. "

Staff will retest the hospital to see if noise is declining, she said.

Other hospitals are following suit - Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center, Aurora West Allis Medical Center and Aurora Sinai Medical Center have also adopted the SHHH campaign.

"We're confident all Aurora hospitals will engage in this concept," Glocka said. "We're going to try to lead the way to really make a difference."

Chantel Balzell can be reached at (262) 446-6602.

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