Shhh … silent hospitals help healing

When I was a kid my dad’s shop was near an area in Oakland called Pill Hill. So called because of all the medical offices and three hospitals that were located there. Surrounding the roughly mile square area were signs that said, “Quiet, Hospital.”

Naturally my mother interpreted that to mean her noisy kids were not to speak, cough or laugh while driving through that neighborhood. An interesting perspective, but perhaps it would have been better for people not to blow their horns or rev their motors.

Whatever the signs intentions were, it’s been proven that quiet, certainly inside hospitals, aids healing. And, a new initiative, called Shhh …Silent Hospitals Help Healing at Bonner General Health strives to identify ways to create a more peaceful environment.

“Creating a quiet environment will improve patient healing,” Chief Nursing Officer, Misty Robertson, RN said. “When patients experience sleep disruption or do not rest, they experience an increase in heart rate and brain wave activity. In fact, patients respond to hospital noise in the same way they would respond to stress, and this impacts their healing.”

She explained that hospitals, by nature, are noisy places. With staff working round the clock, it’s easy to forget that there are people trying to rest. The Shhh program will be implemented soon to try to alleviate not only unnecessary noise, but to also combine some interruptions to patients’ sleep time.

“Patients heal faster when their environment is quiet, and employees tend to be more satisfied when we can eliminate noise,” Robertson said. “Some noise is to be expected, for example call lights ringing and monitors beeping. But loud noises affect everyone.”

Tracy Autler, RN, Director of Quality and Risk Management stated the Patient Experience Committee identified the need for this campaign. Their first step was to identify where noise can be eliminated. “The overhead paging system was identified as an opportunity to reduce unnecessary noise. The overhead paging will be reserved for emergency situations only” Autler said.

The critical time for noise elimination will be during the afternoon and overnight hours. Autler said the hospital is implementing “Quiet Hours” during these critical times to encourage rest.  During quiet time, routine maintenance will be decreased, staff will be encouraged to whisper, phones will be set to vibrate and lights lowered. The Quiet Hours will be from 1-3pm and 10pm-2am. She also said that consolidating patient care will be a big bonus. Taking vital statistics, changing dressings, and the like, will be coordinated.

“A fun part of the campaign included a photo shoot with children and grandchildren of some BGH employees. The photographs will be featured on signage alerting patients and visitors of the campaign” Robertson said.

There are no restrictions on when visitors can come, however they will be encouraged to support and participate in the campaign by keeping conversations to a minimum in the hallways, speaking in low voices in the patient’s room, and putting cell phones on vibrate.

Robertson said that each patient will be given a quiet kit containing a note that reads, “For your comfort and healing we hope to make your stay as quiet and peaceful as possible. While it is not possible to stop all noise, since we need to actively care for our patients, it is our priority to keep noise levels as low as possible.” This quiet kit contains an eye mask, ear plugs, Chapstick, hand sanitizer and a tea bag to promote relaxation.

Autler and Robertson said “We are always focused on improving the patient’s experience. The Shhh campaign is an exciting endeavor for our Patient Experience Committee.

Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health’s Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at 264-4029 or kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.