Julian Treasure’s recent TED Talk “Designing Healthcare with Sound in Mind” is an informative lecture about why and how to make hospitals acoustically supportive for healing. I highly recommend the 13-14 min talk! He starts out with a very prophetic quote from Florence Nightengale about the cruelty of unnecessary noise which I had never heard of but totally agree with!
Some highlights from the talk include:
- The increasing noise in our society and associated burden on healthcare systems
- The even higher increase in noise in hospitals (8-12 times higher than it should be according to the World Health Organization!)
- The association between noise and cardiovascular disease
- 4 Ways that sounds affects us (physically, emotionally, cognitively, and behaviorally-[also of relevance to morale, stress, & professional conduct no doubt!])
- Noise is the #1 complaint of patients in U.S. hospitals according to the Beryl Institute.
- Several solution-oriented action steps are outlined
Given all of this, it is a very valuable talk and the speaker a great resource.
So what is my caution?
That we need to make sure that we keep in mind the impact of noise and solutions on nursing and other hospital staff. I winced when I heard him suggest that some alarms be replaced by vibrating mechanisms because I believe there is this common blind spot about the need for adequate staffing. Replacing sound alarms with vibrating mechanisms without taking this into account is dangerous because it fails to address the number of interruptions and how any frequency of vibrating alerts might impact staff. Quieter for patients, but not necessarily safer and certainly not necessarily healthy for staff. So my plea would be to ensure that adequate staffing is integral to solutions involving noise reduction! I’m going to write to him and share this blogpost and the “Interruption Awareness: A Nursing Minute for Patient Safety” youtube which I hope will raise his awareness about this part of the problem and encourage his continued work on “Sound Health”! In case you want to share your feedback, here’s his contact web page.