High noise levels in intensive care units are common. Increased noise levels can lead to sleep deprivation, increased pain perception, and delirium. The most common cause of reducible noise in intensive care units often is attributed to staff conversations.


In January 2015, the neurosurgical intensive care unit staff identified noise as a problem, referencing complaints from other disciplines and family members. Quiet times from 3 am to 5 am and from 3 pm to 5 pm were agreed upon. An improvement plan was developed with a goal to decrease noise levels by 10 decibels in 6 months.


Using a decibel meter, noise data were collected in 4 locations every 30 minutes during the chosen times for 8 days. Quiet time was implemented 1 week after staff, patient, and family education was completed. Decibel data were collected and evaluated after 60 days.


There were statistically significant reductions in noise levels at nurses’ station left (P = .04) and the bed 9 entrance (P = .02). Noise levels were lower, but not significantly so, for nurses’ station right (P = .12) and the bed 4 entrance (P = .06). Noise levels during quiet time decreased to an average of 10 to 15 decibels lower than baseline data.


Sharing baseline data was effective to heighten noise awareness. During quiet time, limiting conversations, eliminating environmental noise, and dimming the lights as a reminder to be quiet are 3 simple strategies that can be implemented to lessen noise.

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