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Central Oregon Hospital Launches 'Yacker Tracker' To Keep The Peace

St. Charles Health System is launching a campaign this week keep noise levels down at its Central Oregon hospitals. The idea comes from volumes of research that suggest controlling sound can lead to better health outcomes for patients.

There’s a lot that goes in the course of the day in a hospital. Babies are born. Loved ones pass on, and surgeons save lives. But there are also more mundane events: staffers deliver meals and take out the trash, and people talk about Oregon football in the halls.

The "Yacker Tracker" reminds those at St. Charles hospital to keep the environment quiet.

The “Yacker Tracker” reminds those at St. Charles hospital to keep the environment quiet.

David Nogueras/OPB

The St. Charles campaign is all about making this complicated environment a little quieter.

Nancy Simonson explains, “Because a quiet environment is a healing environment.”

Simonson manages orthopedics and neurosciences unit at St. Charles, Bend.

She says nationwide, hospital patients complain twice as often about noise than they do any other part of their stay. As a result, she says over the last few months, the hospital has done things like replace wheels on noisy equipment carts, and adjust fire doors to keep them from slamming shut.

But Simonson says a large part of the campaign centers on helping staff and visitors to be more aware of the noise they might be making.

She said, “Sometimes we get talking and we don’t think about how loud we’re talking or the noise that we’re making and the stress that we’re causing our patients.”

To that end, the hospital has put up posters reminding visitors to keep their voices down.

It’s also installed a number of sound monitoring devices called “Yacker Trackers.”

The device looks like a traffic light. And as outside noise gets louder, the light moves from green to yellow to red, at which points an alarm is sounded. “Quiet please,” it announces.

The “Yacker Tracker” can also say that in German, French and Spanish.

Simonson says the hospital has installed the devices in a number of locations, including its surgical and intermediate care departments. She also says there’s one in the neonatal intensive care unit. Simonson says because newborns are sensitive to sound, the device doesn’t make any noise — it just lights up.


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