Are Hospital Falls Preventable?

Picture this. You are in the hospital for a routine procedure or surgery and you expect to be out in a few days. As you are recovering, in a weaker state and on various prescription pain medications, a nurse who is supposed to help you get out of bed and over to the bathroom fails to hold onto you and guide you safely as you walk. Next thing you know, you’re on the ground and in pain because of a fall. Consequently, you require further hospitalization and treatment because of your fall injury and you wind up being in the hospital for a few weeks.

Each year, between 700,000 and 1,000,000 people in the U.S. fall in a hospital, according to the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. These falls can cause serious harm to patients, such as fractures, lacerations, and internal bleeding, all of which contribute to longer hospital stays and higher medical bills.

We’ve helped several people who were injured as a result of preventable falls in a hospital. In one case, a nurse aide did not help the patient all the way to the toilet and ensure the patient was safely seated. Instead, the nurse aide left the patient at the doorway to the bathroom, forcing the patient to try to walk over to the toilet by herself, with nothing to hold onto for balance, while also trying to pull along her IV stand that is on wheels. As the patient was trying to seat herself onto the toilet and hold the IV stand to the side, she fell and injured herself.

In order to prevent patients from falling in hospitals, it is common practice for hospitals to have fall prevention procedures in place that help staff members identify which patients may have a greater risk of falling and also offer guidance on how hospital staff members can work together to prevent falls. For example, patients who have been determined to be fall risks should be easily identified by placing a certain color bracelet on them or putting up a certain notice on the door to the patient’s room. Side bed rails are helpful to keep patients from rolling out of bed and falling to the floor. Additionally, providing and instructing patients with how to use a call bell or button so they can notify staff that they need help out of bed to go to the bathroom, instead of trying to get out of bed on their own, can prevent many falls. It is important not only to have equipment like call buttons, bedside alarms, and call bells, but to make sure patients understand how to use the call buttons and then also ensure the call equipment is on and working properly.


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