By Chris Vinton, Medical Solutions Quality Assurance Specialist
One of the biggest safety concerns for inpatient care is falling. In the United States, falls cause more than 30,000 deaths per year. Falls are always very serious and are the most frequently reported adverse patient event, across all age spectrums. Preventing falls is paramount for good patient care. So, how do you prevent patients from falling or tripping?
First, if you ever come across something on the ground and think, “Huh, someone could trip over that.” Do take the time to stop and clean or pick it up — even if it isn’t your job. Oftentimes, many fall injuries happen because someone saw a tripping hazard (like a puddle or a box on the floor) and did not clear it. Keep items out of walkways and an eye on patients who often spill or drop things. Also, keep a special eye on patients who are incontinent, because nothing ruins a day faster than slipping in a puddle of chocolate pudding, so to speak.
When patients are in bed, be sure to pull up the safety rails on both sides. Have a nightstand within reaching distance, so patients don’t have to get up to get their phone, medication, or other important items. Have the call button either on the bed with the patient or on the close nightstand. The less a patient is standing up, the less likely they are to fall!
Be sure to know your patients for each shift. Patients that are older than 65, are weakened, have altered mental status, or are on a combination of drugs are more likely to fall. Try to take special effort in preventing these patients from falling.
Finally, if your patient happens to fall, do not try to catch them. More often than not, trying to catch a falling patient will only get you hurt. Instead, try falling with the patient to slow them down and protect their head. If you are near a wall, you can try guiding the patient’s fall into the wall to slow them down. However, do not body slam your patient into the wall, as this will likely cause more injuries and, unlike in the world of professional wrestling, you will not get a sweet championship belt for doing so! Once the patient is on the floor, assess the patient’s status. If they are well enough to stand up, call for help and get an additional person to help lift. Do not try to stand a patient that has recently fallen on your own.
As always, every hospital is different and every hospital will have different measures to prevent patients from falling. Falls will only cause more problems for you and your patients. Be sure you are doing everything in your power to prevent yourself, your coworkers, and your patients from falling. Just remember, if you see something that could potentially hurt someone, it probably will. Take care of falling hazards and remember: Falls aren’t fun!