This story was first published in Singapore Health, May-Jun 2016 issue.
When nurses from the National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS) discovered that two-thirds of their warded patients were not getting enough sleep at night, they decided to look into the matter.
Their survey of 50 patients revealed that the main disturbances were noise and glare from lights at night. About 70 per cent of those who took part cited these as the main reasons they did not get uninterrupted sleep while in hospital.
The survey revealed that the disturbances took place when nurses came into the wards to carry out procedures such as taking blood samples (twice a night), doing electrocardiograms (to measure heart activity), turning immobile patients, and checking blood glucose levels.
The noise and glare coming through the curtains would keep patients in adjacent beds awake. Added to this were the unfamiliar hospital setting and anxiety over upcoming medical procedures that some patients experienced.
After implementing these measures...79 per cent of patients now have sufficient sleep at night, compared to 30 per cent previously.
“We found that patients in adjacent beds were affected by the light coming through the curtains, but it is impossible for nurses to work under dimmer lighting conditions as that will compromise patient safety,” said Ms Wu Wing Yin, Nurse Clinician, Coronary Care Unit, NHCS, and the team leader behind this project.
To resolve the issue, the nurses came up with the innovative idea of attaching a battery-powered, flexible, portable torchlight to the “Computer on Wheels” – a laptop mounted on a wheeled platform (pictured). It is standard protocol for nurses to push a Computer on Wheels along whenever they take blood samples from patients.
At just three watts, the low intensity torch is bright enough to allow nurses to safely take blood samples from patients at night without disturbing other patients nearby. The team also worked with in-house engineers to enhance the torch so that it has a USB connection, and can run on batteries instead of being attached by a wire.
The nurses also introduced changes to the night shift nursing routine. Instead of doing individual checks and procedures, screenings are streamlined to allow two nurses to do two check-ups at the same time. This gives patients longer periods of uninterrupted sleep, which helps in their recovery.
After implementing these measures and with noise and glare significantly reduced, another survey showed that 79 per cent of patients now have sufficient sleep at night, compared to 30 per cent previously.