the threat of patient falls in hospitals is very real

There is no disputing that hospital negligence encompasses all types of otherwise unacceptable conduct by staff members, from medication mistakes and surgical errors to misdiagnoses and the failure to secure informed consent. However, it’s important to remember that hospital negligence isn’t just confined to the emergency room, operating room or exam room.

Specifically, hospital negligence can occur in patient rooms, bathrooms and hallways if staff members fail to take the necessary precautions to keep already weakened patients safe. One common example of hospital negligence in these settings is patient falls.

Statistics from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, whose stated purpose is to “produce evidence to make health care safer, higher quality, more accessible, equitable and affordable,” reveal that anywhere from 700,000 to 1 million patients fall in U.S. hospitals every year. Even more shocking, the agency found that these falls can result in complications for 2 percent of all hospital stays.

Fortunately, there are a few simple steps that patient safety advocates say that hospitals can consider implementing to keep their patients from suffering serious — and potentially deadly — injuries in otherwise avoidable falls.

Establish a no-pass zone: This means that every staff member working a shift must respond to all call bells/patient alarms, in spite of the patient’s being assigned to a particular staff member. In addition, experts advise the implementation of hourly rounding and semi-regular bed checks.

Put white boards in every patient room: While white boards are a common sight in schools, experts say they should also be a common sight in patient rooms. Here, nurses can relay important information to fellow staff and family members about the patient’s limited mobility (i.e., needs a cane or walker to move, hooked up to fall alarm, etc.).

Record personalized messages: Experts advise that hospital staff should consider creating a personalized message for patients in the event a fall alarm is activated, as hearing their name and other identifying information can break through the fog that many disoriented patients feel and prevent them from moving.

“You want to stun them in the first three seconds. You say their name, identify yourself, ask them to sit down and tell them you will be right in,” said one nurse whose hospital has already seen a great reduction in patient falls due to this and other measures.

Monitor patients more closely: Finally, experts recommend that hospital staff take the time to monitor patients to learn more about when they appear to be most active or most likely to want to use the restroom. Learning patients’ habits can help prevent falls as staff members will know when to be on the lookout. It will also alert staff as to whether a patient needs to be moved closer to a nursing station.

What are your thoughts on these measures? Have you or a loved one experienced a hospital fall? If so, do you think these methods would prove effective?

Source: FierceHealthcare, “5 ways to prevent patient falls,” Katie Sullivan, Feb. 19, 2014

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