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Am Surg. 1998 Sep;64(9):894-9.

Interventions to reduce decibel levels on patient care units.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, University of Virginia Health System and School of Medicine, Charlottesville, USA.


The University of Virginia Health System inpatient satisfaction survey identified noise as the most important irritant to surgical inpatients. Analysis of the level and pattern of noise on patient floors and intensive care units was done with baseline measurements followed by then two separate interventions: 1) education of nursing and physician staff 2) closing patient room doors. A decibel meter (M-27 Dosimeter) recorded the noise level over 24 hours. Patients doors were open in the initial measurements. Next, three 1-hour education sessions were conducted by a surgeon and nursing supervisor to review noise-reduction strategies with the staff. These included using pagers in vibrate mode, minimizing overhead announcements, and conducting nurse reports and physician teaching sessions in classrooms away from the nurses' station. Finally, the doors were closed except as visitors and staff entered the room. Little impact was seen from staff education. Closing patient doors on surgical floors decreased noise an average of 6.0 dB, a change that patients can readily perceive. Conversely, intensive care unit patients are exposed to more noise with closed doors, presumably because most noise emanates from equipment within the room. A policy of closing patient floor room doors may increase patient satisfaction.

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