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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Perception of Noise by Emergency Department Nurses

  • Author(s): Graneto, John
  • Damm, Tessa
  • Graneto, John
  • et al.

Introduction: Noise in the emergency department (ED) may be perceived to be high by both patients and nurses alike. This increased noise level is hypothesized to be responsible for communication interference and subsequent disruption of complex procedures and decision-making. The objective of this study is to quantify ambient noise level in an ED while obtaining coincident subjective surveys from nurses in the assessment of actual versus perceived noise.

Methods: Data collected from surveys of ED nurses on each of 3 different dates revealed that sound levels within the selected ED were consistently at or below 70 decibels (dB) of sound as measured by a sound level meter. This level of sound is of the same decibel of normal conversation at a 3-5 foot distance. Nurses surveyed overwhelmingly rated noise as “low” or “not loud” irrespective of a variance (though predominantly within a 10 dB range) in actual sound decibel measurements.

Results: Years of experience of work within emergency departments proved the most consistent predictor of nurses’ opinions on the frequency with which noise levels within the ED were louder than they should be, with more experienced nurses all ranking noise levels as “frequently” or “always” louder than they should be.

Conclusion: Individual variance existed in how nurses felt that noise level affected work function. ED nurses’ perception of noise is perceived to be low and generally not interfering with their cognitive function. [West J Emerg Med. 2013;14(5):547–550.]

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