Journal review

Buelow M. Noise level measurements in four Phoenix emergency departments. J Emerg Nurs 2001; 27:23-26.

When four EDs in the Phoenix, AZ, area were tested for noise levels, it was found that all of them were at hazardous levels for staff and patients, says this study. The researcher compared noise levels in the four EDs with decibel level standards established by the Washington, DC-based National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The recording unit was placed near the clerk’s desk.

All of the noise levels were higher than the 50-decibel level that is considered acceptable for a work environment, and many levels were high enough to cause feelings of annoyance. "These noise levels are sufficient to cause deleterious psychological and secondary physical effects on staff members," writes the researcher. He suggests taking the following steps to reduce noise:

  • using sound-absorbing materials such as carpeting, acoustic ceiling tiles, padded partitions, or solid doors;
  • contacting your local telephone company to disconnect telephone ringers and substitute a flashing light or gentle gong sound;
  • setting cardiac monitors carefully to reduce the number of false alarms sounding;
  • giving staff members cell phones to replace overhead paging;
  • holding inservice sessions on the importance of noise control.

EDs should make sound control part of their department’s culture, recommends the researcher. "We must not allow other priorities to push noise management out of our awareness," he writes.