Reducing light and sound in the neonatal intensive care unit: an evaluation of patient safety, staff satisfaction and costs

J Perinatol. 2001 Jun;21(4):230-5. doi: 10.1038/


Objectives: To modify an existing Level III neonatal intensive care unit and to compare light and sound levels in the renovated nursery with an adjacent traditionally configured nursery. Further, to assess the impact of this practice on patient safety, staff perceptions of the nursery environments, and to document costs of renovation.

Study design: Prospective comparison of light and sound levels in identical six-bed patient rooms within an existing intensive care unit. One room was modified to reduce light and sound, and the other served as a control. Costs of renovation were documented. Patient characteristics, severity of illness and safety outcomes were documented following modifications. Physician and nursing staff were surveyed on their perceptions of the renovations.

Results: Both light and sound were reduced with modifications that incurred modest costs. Patient safety was not influenced adversely by reduced light or sound levels. Staff members were highly satisfied with reductions in sound levels. Reactions to reduced lighting levels were more mixed and led to modification of bedside lighting.

Conclusions: Cost-effective renovations to an existing NICU are possible, desirable, and do not impact patient safety. The reductions achieved, however, are less than those reached with new construction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Hospital Design and Construction / economics
  • Hospital Design and Construction / standards*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal / economics
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal / standards*
  • Lighting / economics
  • Lighting / standards*
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / psychology
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Safety Management / methods
  • Safety Management / standards*
  • Sound*