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Adventist Health Howard Memorial’s Quiet Campaign Promotes Healing

News, Community Needs

It’s 9:00 p.m. and shades are drawn and lights are dimmed at Adventist Health Howard Memorial. Quiet time has begun at the hospital, a nine-hour period when conversation is hushed, and patients are offered options to help them have a restful night.

Hospitals aren’t known for promoting relaxation, with life-saving machines humming 24/7 and visitors coming and going. But thanks to the hospital’s new HUSH campaign, the place has become, at least for some hours, a little more peaceful. HUSH which stands for “Help Us Support Healing” is a multi-disciplinary effort to reduce noise and create a healing environment for patients as part of the initiative to improve the overall patient experience.

The campaign came about in part, due to survey results from patients thru the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey which ask patients “how often was your room quiet at night?” -- a patient experience measure that’s always been a challenge for most hospitals.

“We’ve always been in the top tier of hospitals in the nation when it comes to patient experience scores. Over the years we have implemented room service, massage therapy, aromatherapy and other programs to enhance a patient’s stay, because, we really want our patients to have a great experience and heal their minds, body and spirit. But our quiet at night scores have always been a challenge, just like most hospitals. Hospitals are just not meant to be quiet with all the machines and conversations that need to happen, to allow us to do our jobs and keep our patients safe,” Becky Hope, patient experience manager explains.

“But we also know how important it is for patients to get rest. So we needed to find a way to address this and make their experience even better,” she adds.

According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, a lack of sleep on a regular basis is associated with increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension, mood disorders, immune function, and life expectancy. During sleep, the body’s natural melatonin produces during the night while it is dark. Melatonin promotes REM sleep and has been found to help various medical conditions. One study cites that melatonin is beneficial in Alzheimer’s Disease to support restorative phases of sleep.

But the irony of hospitals has always been that, while uninterrupted sleep is essential for healing, rarely does anyone get any rest in a hospital. But Hope says, it’s all about doing the right thing for the patient. “It’s definitely not an easy thing to do, but our staff is up for the challenge, because we know how important sleep is, as part of the healing process.” So far, Hope says, they’ve found the smallest things make a big difference. As part of the HUSH campaign, patients are offered a “Sleep Menu” which gives them options to help them have a restful night, including closing doors, dimming the lights, closing blinds and sleep aids such as sleep masks and even chamomile tea and aroma therapy tablets infused with essential oils that adhere to a patient gown.

“Don Smith, one of our Patient Family Advisory Members explained that he didn’t know he could close his door until the second night of his stay. Don encouraged us to educate other patients on that practice to reduce the noise. Closing doors have been huge. Now patients don’t have to hear conversations in the hallway or alarms from their neighbor. Aside from that, during quiet time, everyone is mindful of their conversations in the hallway and the volume of their voices. Our nurses are doing great work by utilizing a flash light to help check vitals or using the bathroom light with the door partially closed, they are doing whatever they can to diminish our patients sleep interruptions,” shared Hope.

To get buy-in and communicate the message, the employees’ children we’re used as models for launching the quiet campaign. Squeaky carts are also fixed and other noisy equipment are looked at. While the hospital has an open visiting hours policy, family members are also encouraged to keep the noise down. Signs are also posted reminding staff and guests about quiet times. Even lab draws and taking the patient’s vital signs are moved an hour later to allow patients to really get a good night’s sleep.

And so far, their efforts have been paying off. “Our most recent quiet scores are the highest we’ve ever seen in five years, which puts us above the national percentile. That’s truly amazing work by everyone. But above all, it’s the patients that benefit from this the most.”

“The quiet hours give everyone – staff included – an opportunity to refresh and rejuvenate,” said Linda Givens, patient care executive for the hospital. “The staff knew quiet hours would benefit patients. But they have been surprised by how beneficial the quiet time is for them, too. It does give staff time to catch up on reviewing patient records and documentation duties,” she adds.

As the great nurse Florence Nightingale herself once said,of one thing you may be certain, that anything which wakes a patient suddenly out of his sleep will invariably put him into a state of greater excitement, do him more serious, aye, and lasting mischief, than any continuous noise, however loud.”

Sleep and rest are essential for good health and healing. That’s why Adventist Health Howard Memorial is making time and taking time for rest.

AHHM’s Patient Family Advisory Council was started in 2014 and consists of past patients and family members to help gather ideas and suggestions from a patient’s perspective and improve the experience for everyone. Those who are interested in joining and would like more information please call Becky Hope at (707)456-3245.

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About Adventist Health Howard Memorial (formerly Frank R. Howard Memorial Hospital) is part of Adventist Health, a faith-based, nonprofit integrated health system serving more than 80 communities on the West Coast and Hawaii. Founded on Seventh-day Adventist heritage and values, Adventist Health provides care in hospitals, clinics, home care agencies, hospice agencies and joint-venture retirement centers in both rural and urban communities. Our compassionate and talented team of 35,000 includes associates, medical staff physicians, allied health professionals and volunteers driven in pursuit of one mission: living God's love by inspiring health, wholeness and hope. Together, we are transforming the American healthcare experience with an innovative, yet timeless, whole-person focus on physical, mental, spiritual and social healing. Visit www.adventisthealth/howard-memorial for more information.