Giving the Gift of Silence: How 'Quiet Kits' are Revolutionizing the Patient Experience

As a hospital executive, Laurie Harting, CEO of Dignity Health St. John's Hospitals in Oxnard and Camarillo, Calif., has always been passionate about noise levels in hospitals.

"When people come into the hospital, they have been hurt and are trying to heal," she says. "Yet in traditional hospitals when you walk the hallways, you hear so much noise from the machines beeping and call lights going off and machinery going down hallways on tiled floors and then the staff who talk above the noise to each other. When you add it all up, when you sit as a patient in the room, it causes constant interruptions to their sleep and their ability to heal."

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Given her commitment to addressing noise levels, Ms. Harting organized patient experience committees to identify areas in which the hospital could make improvements, especially as St. John's tended to have lower patient satisfaction scores than other Dignity Health hospitals.

One such committee dealt specifically with quietness and cleanliness. To help combat noise disruptions, this committee worked with Mundelein, Ill.-based Medline to develop "Quiet Kits," packages presented on the pillows of patient beds containing ear plugs, an eye mask, lip balm and puzzles to help patients relax and feel more comfortable. The kits also included a "Questions for My Care Team" journal and a "Voices Down Please" door hanger.

St. John's initially distributed the Quiet Kits on the women and infant floor. Within six weeks, the response to the kits was so positive that they were being distributed throughout the entire hospital.

"It's great for a patient who is sick to have those earplugs to drown out that noise or the eye masks to shut yourself off from the bright lights and things that are part of the hospital environment," says Cathy Frontczak, RN, vice president and CNO at St. John's. "The Sudoku or different crossword puzzles really help to distract patients from their discomfort or anxiety."

Ms. Frontczak says the distractions the kits provide have even helped reduce the need for pain medication for some patients. Additionally, Ms. Frontczak found family members and hospital visitors also enjoy the kits.

Not only did patients and their families find a reprieve from the hospital through the kits, but clinicians' attitudes and behaviors changed as well, says Sue MacInnes, Medline's chief market solutions officer. If a nurse was rounding and saw the patient was wearing the eye mask or the ear plugs, the nurse would know to come back later and not disturb the patient while he or she rests.

"The thing that blew me away was the stories from the staff members," she says. "The patient behavior changed the clinician behavior. The clinicians felt really good because they were doing something caring for the patient. All the way around it created this really positive swell that I would have never expected."

At their basis, the Quiet Kits go beyond simply curing a patient to a more holistic approach to patient care, focusing on how to help patients heal.

"The healing process is really meeting the needs not just of the physical person and making sure that the wound is clean and healed, but also the mental and spiritual side as well," Ms. Harting says. "You heal through the compassionate bedside care offered by all healthcare providers."

More Articles on Patient Satisfaction:

Boston Medical Center Reduces Cardiac Unit Alarms by 89%: Here's How They Did It
UnitedHealthcare, NYUPN Partner to Provide Coordinated Care
Zero Adverse Events: How Dignity Health Achieved a New Standard

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