If you’ve ever spent a night in a hospital, you likely can relate to this scene: You’re sound asleep well after midnight when you’re suddenly awakened to take medicine, sometimes something ironically designed to help you sleep. Three hours later, a nurse is coming in to check your blood pressure, heart rate and temperature. How are you supposed to recover if you’re sleep deprived and exhausted?
Hospitals have increasingly been paying attention to this common problem and many are implementing new policies and procedures to reduce overnight wake-ups.
A study published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine showed that a nurse-centered program that focused on cutting nighttime disruptions led to 44 percent fewer overnight visits to patient rooms, and more patients reporting no nighttime wake-ups for medicine or to check vital signs.
These outcomes outpaced results in a unit that underwent physician-centered training to enact sleep-friendly practices but had no involvement from nurses. Both units had changes made to their electronic health record systems, allowing doctors to more simply manage preferences about nighttime vital sign checks and administration of certain medications.
The study’s authors note that discussing the new program at nurse “huddle” meetings twice a day was especially impactful in reducing overnight patient room visits.
Overall, the study findings underscore two things: overnight patient wake-ups can be decreased, and nurses are often the most effective agents of change in a hospital. Maybe patients can sleep easier knowing that even in the wee hours of the night, the medical staff is hard at work for their benefit.