Excessive exposure to noise places nurses at risk for safety events, near-misses, decreased job performance, and fatigue. Noise is particularly a concern in pediatric intensive care units, where highly skilled providers and vulnerable patients require a quiet environment to promote healing.


To measure noise levels and noise duration on specialty pediatric intensive care units to explore sources of noise and its effects on the health of registered nurses.


In a cross-sectional pilot study, levels and sources of noise in 3 different specialty pediatric intensive care units were assessed. Fifteen nurses were observed for 4-hour sessions during a 24-hour period. Sound pressure levels (noise) and heart rate were measured continuously, and stress ratings were recorded. Descriptive statistics were calculated for noise (level, source, location, and activity), heart rate, and stress. The Pearson correlation coefficient was calculated to analyze the relationship between heart rate and noise.


Mean noise level was 71.9 (SD, 9.2) dBA. Mean heart rate was 85.2/min (SD, 15.8/min) and was significantly associated with noise, unit, within-unit location, nurse sources, and noise activities. The most frequent sources of noise were patients’ rooms, care activities, and staff communications.


Noise levels in pediatric intensive care units exceed recommended thresholds and require immediate attention through effective interventions. Although noise was not associated with stress, a significant correlation with increased heart rate indicates that noise may be associated with adverse health outcomes.

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