Quiet Hospital Initiative Cuts Down on Overhead Announcements

“It got to be very stressful,” she said. “Sometimes I’d feel sad, because it meant someone was in dire straits. Or, I’d feel irritated, if I was trying to have a rest, and the announcement didn’t have anything to do with the Dialysis Unit.”

We launched the Quiet Hospital initiative last month, and have been able to dramatically reduce the number of overhead announcements by re-evaluating which announcements are really necessary, and using other means for communication to staff.

  • It dramatically reduces the number of overhead announcements.
  • New communications technology has helped us do that.

Thanks to Alison Foard, there’s a little bit more peace and quiet at BRHS these days.

Alison is a patient in our Dialysis Unit, and so she spends quite a few hours at BRHS each week receiving treatment.

They are hours in which she tries to relax and to rest.

That’s difficult to do when you’re attached to a dialysis machine.

It’s especially difficult to do when every few hours a voice interrupts over the loudspeakers to make an announcement – of a pending arrival, a medical emergency somewhere on the hospital campus, or an announcement of a staff meeting.

Alison said she’d noticed an increase in the number of these overhead announcements over the past couple of years, up to 4 or 5 a day in recent times. Alison thought surely there was a way to limit these overhead announcements in areas where the information wasn’t relevant.

“So I mentioned it to Justin (Hamilton – Dialysis Unit Nurse Unit Manager),” Alison said. “He gave me a Consumer Feedback Form and I filled it out.”

We’re glad she did.

It was the feedback we were starting to hear more regularly, from our staff and visitors to BRHS, as well as from other patients.

And we’ve acted on that feedback.

 “We want BRHS to be a place of rest and healing for patients,” said Director of Clinical Operations, Bernadette Hammond. “And so after hearing from a number of patients and staff about the frequency of the overhead announcements, we knew we needed to make a change.”

Overhead public address announcements are used at BRHS for a variety of reasons, including urgent medical alerts known as “Met Calls,” meeting reminders for medical and nursing staff, and reports for visitors that someone has left their car headlights on.

As helpful as these announcements often were, they came at a cost.

Several patients and visitors said the announcements, particularly ones involving pending medical emergencies, or Code Grey alerts about someone being aggressive to staff, made them feel distressed or anxious.

Staff also reported that multiple announcements became intrusive, especially during meetings, conference calls, or conversations with patients and families.

The key to reducing the number of announcements has been the roll-out of hands-free Vocera communications units across much of the main campus.

The Vocera units – smaller than most mobile phones – allow staff to communicate and connect with each other instantly via voice commands or finger taps on the small device worn on the lapel. By sending announcements directly to relevant staff through Vocera, we’ve been able to reduce the number broadcast publicly over the speakers.

“There are, of course, announcements we are required to make under the Emergency Services Act legislation, for certain emergency situations,” Hammond said. “But we think this change will make the hospital a quieter and more restful place. We thank the community for providing the feedback that ultimately drove this improvement.”

About Bairnsdale

Bairnsdale Regional Health Service, known as BRHS, provides healthcare services to the East Gipplands Community in Bairnsdale, Australia. BRHS aims to provide healthcare that is accessible, high quality and sustainable, delivering care across 3 campuses featuring 52 beds, 19 sub-acute beds, a modern theatre suite, a high dependency unit, palliative care and a new maternity unit.

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