Quiet protocol provides better healing environment for UVRMC patients

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 13 2013 4:21 p.m. MST

Overnight staff members at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo had to adapt to keeping their voices down during quiet time at the hospital. Staff on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, working in a quieter and darker environment.

Sam Penrod, Deseret News

PROVO — Hospitals are busy places with lots of noises. That can make it difficult for patients to get a good night’s sleep.

So in an effort to provide a more healing environment, Utah Valley Regional Medical Center has created a quiet protocol.

At 9 p.m., the lights are dimmed, the doors to patient care units are closed, white noise machines are turned on and earplugs and eye masks are offered to patients. When it’s quiet time, this message is broadcasted throughout the hospital: “Patients are now preparing to go to sleep. Please help them heal by speaking softly."

"We know that a quiet environment helps patients heal faster and better, and we know if we can be quieter and less disruptive to their sleep, that they will have better outcomes,” said Todd Hendricks, the hospital's service excellence manager.

Maintenance, custodial work and deliveries all have to be completed before 9 p.m.

Patients like Tammy Christensen, who has spent several weeks at the hospital for treatment, believe it is working.

"The halls get dark and it's bedtime," Christensen said. "I've slept pretty good, probably better than home."

The hospital uses a monitoring system that looks like an ear to make sure visitors and hospital staff keep the noise down. If the noise levels are low, the lights are green. If the lights are red, the environment is too noisy.

"We are always conscious and aware of what (the monitor) is at. We try to keep even the yellow off," said nurse Trever Astle. "It's pretty sensitive."

The middle of the night visits to check vital signs still have to happen, but nurses try to keep from disturbing the patients.

"When you go in to check on them, if they are sleeping, do what you need to do quietly without waking them up," said nurse manager Becky Heffelfinger.

Since hospitals operate 24/7, the overnight staff has had to get used to keeping their voices down.

"Sometimes we get a rare patient who thinks it is too quiet and they want their door left open so they can hear the noise at the nurse's station," said nurse Celeste Moos with a chuckle, "but for the most part, they enjoy the quiet. They want it to be like it is at home."

But the peace and quiet doesn’t last forever. It officially ends at 6 a.m. each day, though everyone is encouraged to keep their voices down throughout the day.

"Sometimes I wish quiet time went until 9 or 10 in the morning," Christensen said.

Still, eight hours of quiet at night is the right dose of medicine many patients need.

Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc

E-mail: spenrod@ksl.com

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