Quiet ORs Better for Patient Safety

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media , May 16, 2013

But other sentences used in the experiment were not highly predictable. When noise levels were high, and when the surgeons were asked to perform tasks in the lab, their ability to figure out the words in the sentence declined.

Bush, an otolaryngologist and audiology researcher, says that in his training experience in medical school, residency, and now in practice, he's "seen a diverse array of operating room environments, with lots of different music styles and volumes.

"And I know from communicating with my colleagues and the co-authors of this paper that they have been exposed to music or loud conversations and distractions in the background that make it difficult to communicate. Every person who has worked in the operating room can think of times or situations where they weren't able to communicate as well or hear what is being said because of loud music."

Bush is quick to acknowledge that his study uses a very small sample, and has major limitations. For example, the surgeons were not tested for their ability to communicate with other members of their surgical team such as nurses or techs. "We need a study with more subjects and which involves more disciplines. But this is a dialogue starter, and that's what it's done at our institution."

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