Controlling excessive noise in healthcare environments has long been an industry goal. However, recent design solutions to support competing interests, ranging from aesthetics to efficiency to infection control, may contribute to the noise problem—for example, replacing carpeting with hardwood or tile flooring improves cleanability but also intensifies sounds.

It’s an issue that researchers explored recently. “The Hospital (Not So) Quiet Zone: Creating an Environment for Patient Satisfaction Through Noise Reduction Strategies” by Linda Walker and Cherry A. Karl was published in the Health Environments Research & Design Journal (HERD) last year, sharing the results of a study conducted in a 12-bed adult outpatient cardiology unit.

The unit, although outpatient, frequently has patients remaining there overnight for observation, with numerous patients and families entering throughout the day. It’s designed with 10 rooms in the main hall and a nurses’ station located midway; a nutrition station and staff breakroom are also next to the patient rooms and nurses’ station. And while the unit supports desired workflow and constant patient monitoring, the report states, the layout (and hardwood floors) also contributes to creating a noisy environment that negatively impacts patients, their recovery, and hospital satisfaction.

For this study, the team focused specifically on the five patient rooms directly across and adjacent to the central nurses’ station over two six-week phases of pre- and post-implementation of interventions, with both staff surveys and patient interviews used to assess effectiveness, the study states. Prior to implementation, staff educational sessions discussed noise-reduction strategies such as closing doors, limiting overhead paging, and posting quiet signs; next, those strategies were used for six weeks before surveys and interviews were conducted again.

Ultimately, the researchers found that staff surveys confirmed noise was an issue in the unit, particularly affecting communication, and correlated with patient responses that the unit was noisy, the report states. Post-implementation feedback showed that strategies to reduce the din helped create a “quiet/mostly quiet” space. In conclusion, the study identified the use of staff education and visual cues as effective tools in managing noise, especially if supported by management, and that a decrease in noise levels improved patient satisfaction and created a less stressful work environment.

The full text of this research study is available to Healthcare Design readers until April 10, 2020. To read it, visit https://bitly.2w2w6Ff