Saturday, March 11, 2006

Sometimes the Little Things Mean Alot

Many times the problem is not that healthcare providers individually treat patients poorly. It is that healthcare providers routinely tolerate a culture that is harmful to patients, without ever considering how this is impacting the patients.

Take hospital noise, for example.

When my son was hospitalized, my husband and I took turns staying each night for the 8 nights he was hospitalized. It’s not like I never slept in a hospital before; as an obstetrician, I can’t even count the nights I have spent sleeping in hospital call rooms. I have slept in very few patient rooms though and I could not believe the noise. The ambient noise level was not so bad, but the repeated intercom announcements, the banging of equipment and the nurses talking to patients and each other was unbelievable. Every one knew the patients were asleep, they just didn’t act like they knew or they cared.

Each nurse carried a cell phone/pager. She could be reached by anyone in the hospital and that included her own nurses’ station. Nonetheless, the nurses regularly called each other over the intercom system for routine matters such as help moving a patient. It was loud, it was unnecessary, and none of the nurses seemed to care, even when I asked about it.

I’m not alone in my ire, of course. Susan Mazer, MA, in an article entitled Curing the Noise Epidemic, points out:

Why do patients complain about noise? Next to the requisite hospital annoyances and discomfort, noise is experienced as unnecessary neglect serving no good purpose (my emphasis). It disturbs patients’ sleep, increases their anxiety, and puts into question basic consideration on the part of the hospital in general. The increased noise-induced stress is contagious, impacting the attendant family member who eventually winds up at the nurses’ station complaining about a variety of issues, each worsened by extraneous noise.
This could be easily fixed, if anyone cared to do it. This nursing administration of the hospital should prohibit use of the intercom system at night. The only possible exception might be for a code, but if everyone is carrying pagers, the pagers can be configured to page multiple people with one request in emergency situations.

Why is this still happening?


Blogger said...

I was struck by the fact that the floors are cleaned by men with huge, loud machines at 3 in the morning.

11:03 AM  

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