Hospital wards 'too noisy at night', say nurses

Patient sleeping

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Hospitals need to do more to ensure patients get a good night's sleep, nurses say.

Delegates at the Royal College of Nursing conference said a combination of thoughtlessness and badly run wards were keeping patients awake.

They called for an end to patients being moved at night, which was causing unnecessary disturbances.

But they also admitted they had to be more considerate themselves, during a debate at the meeting in Liverpool.

Start Quote

[There are] cases even of waking patients up to give them sleeping tablets”

End Quote Maura Buchanan A nurse at the RCN meeting

Hospital nurse Debbie Simmonds, from Suffolk, said a combination of alarms going off, conversations between staff, telephones and even squeaky shoes was disturbing patients' sleep.

"It is important we look at ways to reduce noise," she said.

"Sleep is a basic human need and is fundamental to good mental and physical health. Our hospitals are getting busier and patients are more poorly."

She suggested simple measures such as putting alarms and bleepers on vibrate and turning down ringing tones on phones could make a difference.

Fellow delegate Maura Buchanan agreed.

She said: "The source of most complaints about noise are nurses talking too loud, listening to the radio and waking patients up for observations, which sometimes you have to, sometimes you don't. [There are] cases even of waking patients up to give them sleeping tablets."

But she also pointed out that part of the problem was related to how wards were being managed, with examples of patients transferred to other wards or discharged completely during the night.

"Sleep promotes health and healing," she added.

But Margaret Devlin, from Northern Ireland, said it would be impossible to eradicate noise completely.

She said: "Please remember a hospital at night is a working environment. It is not a hotel. There is a need to communicate and move. We can't stop that."

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