Reported in many places: The noise levels of some Intensive Care Units (ICU) in hospitals are similar to those of a motorbike, even a heavy lorry, or mostly a dishwasher.
The World Health Organization says that the noise level of an ICU should be the same as that of a library.
There is plenty of data about this, but the latest findings come from the Euroanaestesia 2016 conference.
I am going to extrapolate this with no data and a hypothesis. Many hospital wards I know in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, not just ICUs, both private an public, resemble a Grand Bazaar. People (nurses, doctors, porters, cleaners, visitors, administrators) talk loud. They interchange messages from top to bottom in the corridor in the same way as waiters in my home country, Spain, shout from the back: two coffees, one mineral water, one latte, pronto.
It’s a frantic environment where everybody rushes, talks loud across the corridor or nursing stations, and the movement of trolleys is constant, whether food or blood pressure machines or wheelchairs. Everybody knows that Mr Simpson is been taken to an XRay because the porter has broadcasted it to the entire ward. Mrs Smith is also going home because there is a tsunami of loud health workers giving instructions. And, yes, Mrs Chambers the blood tests are back.
I am no exaggerating. It has become normal to live that loud busy-ness even in wards with not life or death immediate risk and no need to jump to each other like supermen and superwomen. It’s a busy market, a TV set of high octanes, chaos by design, where the different players play their characters in a visible and noise way. It’s busy, accelerated, rushed, and noisy, particularly noisy.
Why? Because we can. There is no need whatsoever. The quieter bits are the machines, the loudest, the human beings moving around. Usually (usually) the ones in bed are silent, perhaps wanting to rest (why? who do you think you are?) and, perhaps, forming ideas about what is going on. The bodies in beds with funny cloths, steering at the ceiling, or eyes closed, or attached to meters of tubes, are simply caught and contained. Ah, don’t forget the TV, and the radios.
All that not to mention the swarm of white coats (or not coats) suddenly arriving to your bed on a ‘ward round’ that looks more like a war round. Here they come. (And as Kate Grange discovered, hard sometimes to see somebody introducing themselves; #hellomynameis
It does not make any sense. It’s wrong.
This is the experiment I’d love to carry out. Two similar wards, ‘similar nurses’, similar patients/degree of severity. One is left to continue as normal: grand bazaar, Mr Thomson, your pills, have you been to the toilet?, motorbike decibels, frantic, rushed, Kosovo in a bad day, full of adrenaline in the air. Another ward instructed to think ‘this is like a library’; whisper or you’ll raise many eyebrows. Shush! Quiet! It’s a library! Slow down, one trolley at a time and not Formula 1, silence. Silence please, I am sick. Shush!
Compare. Pick as many parameters as you wish. I have a few in my draw. Repeat.
Oh! How much I’d love to run this!