One of the most common complaints from patients in the hospital is that they can’t get undisturbed rest. Whether it’s overnight or during the day, many patients report that there are too many hospital staff coming in and waking them up for various functions.
While most people have reasonably short hospital stays, others must be in inpatient status for longer stretches of weeks or even months. Short-stay patients, as tired and irritated as they may become, at least know that they will be home in a couple more days and won’t be disturbed. The patients who must stay longer are sicker to begin with, requiring even more rest, and they are subject to a higher cumulative impact of their restless nights.
So how can hospitals improve the system for all patients, particularly those who will be with them for longer periods of time? It takes some organization and investment, but with a positive patient care outcome in mind, it can be achieved.
A typical run-through of a patient’s vital signs will include blood pressure, pulse oximetry, pulse, respirations, and temperature. The more different instruments involved in tracking these, the longer the check will take.
When several of these key elements, along with others like EKG data, can be tied together through a single Vital Signs Monitor, the process becomes faster and less disruptive for the patient, and the unofficial vital sign–sleep–is easier to keep on track.
The only thing worse than being awakened by hospital staff during the night is being awakened several times during the night. Patients complain that they often doze off just in time to be awakened again by another staff member.
While it’s difficult to fully coordinate the timing of staff arrivals, personnel should be instructed to at least make a special effort to arrive together for patients experiencing prolonged hospital stays.
That means having the LPN arrive for vitals, the respiratory therapist arrives for a breathing treatment, and whoever else is involved in care to arrive at the same time if at all possible. Longer-term patients can be highlighted on each shift’s orders as a team check so that they can quickly organize visits.
In addition to working towards a coordinated schedule for overnight checks, staff can also work on the timing of visits. For example, if a particular check must be done every six hours, it can be timed to be done immediately before the patient goes to bed and then repeated around the time he or she will wake up. As an example, visits could be made at midnight and 6 am instead of at 9 pm and 3 am.
To be fair, this is a difficult thing to do. Patients often sleep at unpredictable times that would make it impossible to align their habits with the necessary spacing of visits. But there can be a certain amount of coordination, and patients will appreciate whatever success the staff may have.
The purpose of being in the hospital is to get treatment for a condition, and enough rest to build and maintain strength. Although there is no way to avoid having to take vitals or do other work with patients during the night, it can be possible to streamline the process for the facility’s longest-staying patients in order to cut down on the number of disruptions they can endure. This can provide a helpful boost to patients and to family members who may be staying with them, helping everyone to better cope with the situation.