Render of Critical Care Tower lobby
By Makenzie McNeill

Smart Design Will Reduce Noise in UNM Hospital’s Critical Care Tower

Hospitals, especially level-one trauma centers like the University of New Mexico Hospital, naturally generate a lot of noise. A symphony of diverse sounds fills the air continually at the University of New Mexico Hospital, from the low beeping machines to the wailing of ambulance sirens, and everything in between. It’s not ideal.

That’s why crews constructing the new Critical Care Tower (CCT) are implementing improved sound measures to help reduce exposure to intrusive sounds throughout the whole building.

When the nine-level facility debuts, patients and staff will enjoy an ultramodern facility that has been designed to foster a quieter and more tranquil environment for all.

“A peaceful and quiet hospital environment is a win-win situation because it equally benefits both patients and caregivers,” said Carlos Galindo, manager of the Patient Experience Office at UNM Hospital.

A growing body of medical literature has found numerous negative effects of noise pollution in hospital settings.

For patients, the constant hum of medical equipment can slow their recovery, lengthen their stay and lead to delirium. Visitors often find the various alarms and bells distressing. Such noises in the environment increase health care workers’ levels of stress and anxiety, which can affect the quality of their patient care.

With this in mind, UNM Hospital worked with an acoustical consultant to capture the range of noise levels expected at the future site of the CCT. Several recommendations were made to improve the indoor sound quality.

To limit noise transmission from the outside to the inside, construction crews are double-glazing the exterior window systems with an additional interior sash at the patient rooms, integrating extra layers of drywall and adding an acoustical barrier ceiling on the patient rooms of the top floor.

Interior finishes, such as wood ceiling tiles, perforated wood and metal ceilings, acoustical wall panels and upholstered furniture will improve the acoustical qualities and absorb sound inside the CCT.

Galindo and his team know well just how important a quiet environment is to patients. Every year, they run a survey administered by PressGaney to measure overall patient experience. One of the metrics patients rank is how quiet and calm their stay at UNM Hospital was.

“Quietness, especially at night, is very important to patients and it plays an important role in their recovery,” Galindo said.

“When patients have a peaceful and calm environment, they are able to rest and relax, allowing their bodies to heal better. This contributes to shorter lengths of stay, less likelihood of readmissions and overall a better patient experience.”

Reduced noise pollution is also going to dramatically benefit caregivers in the CCT, who are exposed to nearly constant auditory stimulation in their workplaces.

Cipriano Botello, unit director in the progressive care unit at UNM Hospital, is optimistic that the improved sound measures in the CCT will positively impact health care workers.

“It is good to hear that overall noise pollution is being taken into consideration during the building of our new tower,” he said. “Any efforts to reduce the noise level will be very beneficial as we continue our quest to reduce alarm and noise fatigue among our health care workers.”

Similarly, Brad Tingley, RN in the MICU (medical/cardiac intensive care unit) at UNM Hospital, looks forward to how improved sound measures and unique spaces in the CCT will make daily commotion easier on the ears of staff.

“Noise in the hospital is never going away,” he said. “However, areas like the Sky Campus will provide a much-needed respite away from the loud and intrusive sounds of busy areas like the MICU.”

The Sky Campus on level four will be completely dedicated to the well-being of staff and residents, offering the opportunity to rest in a quiet, peaceful environment.

Render of the new Critical Care Tower lobby

The relentless clamor that ripples through the health care facilities is unavoidable, but the improved sound measures in the CCT will create a more comfortable experience for everyone.

“By lowering the overall noise levels, we are moving towards a less stressful work environment for everyone: health care workers, patients, and visitors alike,” Botello said.

To learn more about the hospital expansion, visit

Categories: UNM Hospital