72 decibels. That’s how loud it is during days at hospitals, and that’s the volume of a vacuum cleaner running constantly.
Here’s an Atlantic article that breaks it down. How can hospitals be houses of healing if they’re SO DAMN LOUD??
Full transcript below, please share with everyone who’ll listen (at a reasonable volume, of course)!
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Yo, what’s up ZPac? It’s your boy ZDoggMD, Dr. Zubin Damania.
All right, check it. There was recently an article in The Atlantic about how hospitals are loud AF. They are so loud. Anyone working in healthcare knows this. Anyone who’s been a patient knows this. I know this as a doctor and with my wife, who when she gave birth to our first child, we were at Stanford.
It was actually a real plush OB ward on F unit, and everything was nice, and yet it was loud AF. The screaming baby was actually a relief from the level of noise on the floor. And this is common across institutions. We actually left AMA the next day to get some sleep, and we just had a baby. So it tells you something.
The average decibel level on a hospital ward is 72. Now to put that in context, that is a vacuum cleaner running at full blast. And the thing is, we all know that sleep is crucial to healing, it’s crucial to growth, it’s crucial to all kinds of things, and yet we deprive our patients of it, any opportunity we get.
Not only that, but I think it’s driving us, the healthcare practitioners, slowly but surely insane. It’s a kind of constant Chinese water torture, if that’s a thing, no offense to the Chinese. And here’s the thing. We can actually do better. So it turns out, alarms. They did a study. 350 alarms per patient per day. Over 90% of which were false positive. Now already we have alarm fatigue, which means we hear these alarms and we turn them off, I mean we turn them off mentally because we know that most of them are BS.
So why don’t we make alarms actually mean something? Why not we change the tone of the alarms to be less dissonant to any normal human sensibility? And get them out of patient rooms, do something to change the overall level of noise.
The second thing is, every surface in the hospital is shiny so it can be disinfected. Turns out shiny surfaces reflect noise really, really well. So maybe we gotta suck it up and put some carpet in the halls at least. They actually did that at Stanford. You gotta keep ’em clean, it’s hard to do, but the overall level of noise drops.
Now here’s the thing, at the nurses’ station there’s signs everywhere, “Shh,” “Quiet,” “Don’t make a lot of noise.” Okay, I get it, that’s really important and we can be very insensitive to our patients’ needs, however, sometimes we just want to be human beings and talk to our colleagues and have fun and make a joke at the nurse’s station at a normal, goddamn voice level, and we can’t do it because everything’s hush hush. So maybe there’s a way we can make that happen.
Maybe we can have spaces like lounges and places that are carved out, and just precious space in the hospital that are actually just for us to be human beings. That would be nice. So putting it all together, let’s fix the alarm issue. There are ways to do it, there are ways to redesign alarms. There are better ways to do things. Fix the surfaces issue, fix the cultural issue around noise in the hospital, and then maybe all of us can get a little better rest.
All right guys, do me a favor. Become a supporter, ’cause we’re dope, all right? Hit us up, hit sh–
– [Tom] Keep it down!
– You shut up, Tom Hinueber. Hit share, and we out. I’m loud!