We will spend about one third of our lives sleeping, or at least trying to. Research has found that millions of Canadians are not getting the recommended amount of sleep per night, which is between 7 to 9 hours for adults. The problem is prevalent at home, and persists in other environments like the hospital, too. The realities that go along with patient care can make quality shut eye an elusive thing.
Addressing any problem demands understanding it, so Sunnybrook is piloting an interesting device on one of its patient care units. It’s called the Yacker Tracker, and looks just like a traffic stoplight. Users can select a target decibel level and are warned with a flashing yellow light if the noise in the environment is increasing. If noise levels exceed 15 decibels above the set level, the red light will flash as a warning that things are too loud.
“We wanted to introduce an object on the unit that would help be a bit of a visual cue for staff regarding the noise in the environment,” says Sunnybrook nurse practitioner Deborah Brown. But she adds that finding the right decibel levels may take a bit of work. The World Health Organization suggests that hospital noise levels should be around 30 to 35 decibels, equivalent to a quiet conversation. That can be difficult in health care, where staff need to consult during rounds, medical equipment may emit sound and the environment may be consistently active. Also, knowing where to place the device to optimize its potential benefits can be tricky, says Brown. Is it better in a busy staff hub like the nursing station, or closer to a patient’s bedside? That will all be looked at over the next few months at Sunnybrook.
In addition to being an obvious visual cue, Brown says the device may be effective in other ways. “We’re hoping it will also help us measure the effect of some of the interventions we have planned.” Those include closing doors and providing earplugs to some patients. Satisfaction rates among staff will also be measured to see if this form of ‘noise awareness’ makes it easier to provide quality care.
This type of noise monitoring device has been used in schools as a way for student to self-monitor their noise levels, and is now increasingly finding a home in other settings like health care. If the device is found to have a positive impact, Brown says it could open the door to more of these devices being placed in various areas of the hospital. Giving the green light, quite literally, to a better night’s rest.