The bell effect
Hello readers! Today’s blog is going to be on “the bell effect”. There may be a number of references made to it and you may have heard of “the bell effect” for instance in physics, maths or statistics. I really hope there is something like that in the academic world out there, as it feels so familiar. But I’m not talking of the bell effect guitar, the bell curve effect, tinkerbell effect, the bell curve and the Flynn effect or the Alexander graham bell effect on the world. These are different topics that I know a very little about.
The effect that doesn’t exist
Nevertheless, it is rather unlikely that “the bell effect” doesn’t exist out there. I say so because I thought I was a great creative guy and that I could easily come up with catchy phrases as often as needed, only to realize the term or phrase that I came up with already exists.
I have faced this disappointing situation in my professional career too on numerous occasions. In the past, whenever I thought of doing a research project, after having come out with a good study idea, I invariably ended up finding out that it already had been done (if you are in the medical field, you may relate to it better). I finally realized writing blogs was easier and better after all.
The special and unique effect
But with today’s topic it may not be so, there may be no other “the bell effect” and this may be the first of its kind that you are going to read about. Even if you have heard of it before, what I am going to write about today is really very special and totally unique.
A word about my blog
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Bells and bells everywhere
So, coming to the topic of the day, I’m sure that everyone has heard bells ringing before. We have all heard the famous Jingle bells too. Everyone has a different association with bells. Some link it to temples and others to churches. If you stay in India it may remind you of an odd cow walking on the road with a bell around her neck. My story today has all to do with the sweet sound of bells ringing in the most unlikely place of this world and I shall tell you about it as you read on.
Bells, peace, and harmony
Bells always bring about positive vibrations a sense of peace and harmony. Their sound is very musical and there is something so special in the quality of their sound that makes them truly enchanting.
A concert with a difference
About a year ago, in Bangalore, I had gone to a concert which was a very different and new experience for me. It was a hand-bell music concert. I had never known of such concerts before. It is, however, gaining a lot of popularity nowadays and is a must watch for those of you who enjoy choir music. The only musical instruments played out there were hand-bells.
The concert that I’m referring to was in Chai 3.16, a Christian organization that has a cafe auditorium. It holds a variety of music programs mostly related to gospel music. This happens from time to time but on a Saturday afternoon at 3:16 pm there is certainly a music program and of course one gets to enjoy it over a cup of tea!
The hand-bell choir
It was there that I got introduced to a group of musicians from the Singapore based International Baptist Church Hand-bell Choir, who were especially performing at the Chai 3.16 café. As you would have guessed they were a unique group of musicians in that each held a hand-bell and each one of those bells had a different yet beautiful tone.
The choir with bass, tenor, alto and soprano hand-bells
Like in any other musical choir you may know, they had organized themselves as bass, tenor, alto and soprano hand-bell players. The bass bells had the lowest pitch. This was followed in increasing pitches by the tenor bells, the alto bells and then finally the highest pitched bells were the soprano bells. And of course, not to forget each composition the choir played had a music conductor.
An exhilarating musical experience
They effortlessly played heart touching music ranging from complex symphonies composed by masters like Mozart, Beethoven, and the likes, to simple yet charming Christmas carols. That was such a powerful performance and a truly exhilarating experience. It really impacted me a lot and it reminded me that the sounds of bells certainly have a magical feel and a healing power. Having been a strong proponent of the positive effects of music, it got me thinking about how the power of ringing bells may make illness more bearable and heal the very sick.
No headway in my application
I kept toying around with such thoughts and ideas for a relatively long time. I made no real breakthrough. But these thoughts never left my head. If you have ever visited an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of a hospital before, you would probably know what I’m referring to. The sounds inside can drive a normal person crazy. I can’t say what effect it would have on a sick person but it is certainly not a pleasant experience.
The chaotic environment of an Intensive Care Unit
There is a constant cacophony of alarms. People working in an ICU may be talking loudly unmindful of patients who are critically ill. I have heard ICU staff being insensitive and discussing the fate of patients well within their hearing range. I’ve heard duty doctors making statements like “he won’t make it”, this patient is DNR (do not resuscitate) etc right in front of a patient not understanding that the patient may actually be listening.
There are phones ringing, sounds of monitors with heartbeats, pulseoximeter beeps and numerous other incomprehensible noises which can be most annoying and disturbing to ailing people.
The soothing qualities of music and bells
And, can you imagine how sweet it would it be, to hear chimes or bells in the ICU, in midst of all the chaos, confusion and hyperactivity? Could this soothing effect be called “the bell effect”? Well, maybe… and at least I thought so, but there’s so much more to it. Read on…
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Dangers of unclean hands
Getting back to the topic of discussion, do you know what the other pressing problem of an ICU is? It is the difficulty in controlling and combating serious infections. There is a real threat of some dangerous infection spreading from patient to patient through healthcare personnel or from the ICU environment.
The true problem of hospital acquired infections
This risk is very real, especially if it involves a patient who is admitted to the ICU but is not infected and ends up catching an ICU bug. Such an infection is called a hospital acquired infection. Patients may develop ventilator associated pneumonias, low blood pressure, and multi organ failure, all due to these devastating bugs, and these can be potentially transmitted from patient to patient. All these conditions are immensely difficult to treat and a number of them result in fatalities.
The importance of hand hygiene
These hospital acquired infections are transmitted especially if infection control practices are not in place. It is usually the healthcare personnel who inadvertently transmit these bugs from patient to patient, through their own hands of course. These destroyers spread via unwashed hands from patient to patient. A simple yet effective method to prevent and manage this issue is by regular hand washing. Yes, it’s so simple… prevent infection spread by washing hands! That’s the importance of hand hygiene.
Healthcare givers are trained to wash their hands numerous times. Hand washing is to be done before and after touching a patient, before and after doing a procedure on a patient and whenever it comes to mind. Now, you may be wondering what this has to do with bells. There is a strange relationship that I will explain as you read by!
The feel good bell
As I mentioned above bells do sound so good and we have seen them at temples and churches. I also noticed them being used to great effect at various other places. It was just the other day that I visited one of the fast food joints. What I recollect very well from my visit there, was that there was a board on one of the walls and a bell hung nearby it. As I left the restaurant I read the board and it said: “ring the bell if you enjoyed yourself”. This was a feel-good bell to be rung! I rang the bell because I felt good about the experience. And thereafter I continued to feel really good after I rang the bell.
Two bells that sounded different
I thought to myself, if there can be a feel-good bell there can be a wash your hands’ bell too! For an upcoming inspection of the ICU, I was thinking of an innovation to display to the inspecting team. That’s when it all fell into place. I went to the local market and looked for a brassware shop. I purchased two small beautiful brass bells with chains. They had the most pleasant and beautiful sound. Each of the two bells sounded different.
Ring the bell before washing your hand
I went straight to the ICU and hung the two bells near the wash basin. I put up a sign that read “ring the bell before washing your hands”. In the beginning, the staff was wondering what I was up to. One person asked me if I intended to convert the ICU into a temple! It reminded me of a common saying in India “Work is worship”. The place I work is my temple! Couldn’t be more of a “Cliché” could it?
The game of ringing bells and washing hands
The bell worked like magic. All the nursing staff, doctors and others working in the ICU took to this idea with enthusiasm. They found it fascinating. It became a game. People would ring the bell and wash their hands!
Beautiful sounds in the ICU
It worked like a win-win situation for the ICU. The ringing of bells brought a pleasant positive vibration into the ICU. Patients could now hear the beautiful sound of bells (in addition to the other sounds of course).
The feedback loop
The ICU staff was motivated to wash hands more often than before. Not only did they like the ringing bells, but people missed hearing the bells if no one went to the washbasin. This worked as a feedback loop and it got more people to ring the bell, which meant more hand washing was happening.
Safer thanks to “the bell effect”?
The ICU where I work now sounds more musical and feels better. I am convinced it is a much safer place today. All thanks to “the bell effect”.
So, my dear friends now you may have got to know how chanced upon the name, “the bell effect”! I hope you enjoyed this true story related to music.
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Happy music to you!