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'Yacker Tracker' Hushes Hospital

Conquest - Fall 2009

Yvette Ong knew from experience that quiet time on an inpatient floor had positive benefits for patients. But a review of studies in this area supplied evidence-based research that substantiated her experience.

Clinical nurses Micah Vo (left) and Valerie
Thielemann (center) hush passers-by next to the
Yacker Tracker, along with the associate director
of nursing, Yvette Ong, who initiated quiet time
on M. D. Anderson's melanoma and sarcoma
inpatient floor.

An oncology nurse and associate director of nursing on
M. D. Anderson’s melanoma and sarcoma floor, she discovered in her review that noise not only causes patients to lose sleep, but also that it stirs their anxiety, causes stress and cardiovascular stimulation, reduces pain tolerance, decreases wound healing, delays recovery and causes early readmissions.

So she and her unit designated noon to 1:00 p.m. every day as “quiet time.”

During this time the level of noise, light and activity are kept to a minimum. Patients’ doors are closed; overhead paging is reduced; lights are dimmed, ringer volumes lowered; the multidisciplinary team speaks in hushed tones; nurses respond to alarms quickly; and prolonged conversations are held in areas beyond the nursing station.

While the nurses and ancillary staff police each other, two bold traffic stoplights known as “Yacker Trackers” bolted to the wall near the nurses’ station are a startling reminder to tone down the voices. The devices are preset to decibel levels, and when they pick up an overly enthusiastic conversation or clacking hard-soled shoes, they alert staff with a flashing red light.

“The nursing staff on the unit takes quiet time seriously. They orient our incoming patients and their families about the designated time so we never lose sight of what we’re trying to accomplish,” Ong says. “The patients help us spread the word, too. They are as serious about getting their quiet times as we are.”

Reported at the 34th annual Oncology Nursing Society Congress in May.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center