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June 14, 2011

Hospital shares three simple steps to reduce patient falls

Daily Briefing

    A three-part approach to addressing patient falls has helped 592-bed Community Medical Center in Toms River, N.J., reduce falls by 30% within a year, NurseWeek reports.

    According to hospital officials, 73% of the hospital's patients are older than 65 years old, and many of those patients suffer from comorbid conditions that increase their risk of falling. Last year, a team of nurses, pharmacists, risk management specialists, physical therapists, and administrative officials studied research on patient falls and developed a three-part program to not only reduce their occurrence, but also balance safety with patients' independence.

    In the first part of the program—education—all direct caregivers received specialized training in fall prevention. For example, nurses focused on assessing a patient's fall potential and evaluated bed alarms and patient rooms for hazardous obstacles. Patients considered most likely to fall were identified with a yellow item, such as yellow slippers or stickers. At the same time, caregivers educated patients and families on specific risks associated with their ailments.

    The second step—assessment—required nurses to conduct daily fall assessments on all patients and communicate changes in risk status with other staff. A risk change consequently activated a certain intervention in a patient's care plan. According to NurseWeek, the information exchange encouraged frontline staff to implement preventive solutions immediately.

    The third step—intervention—incorporated research and assessment data to reduce a patient's chance of falling. For example, all possible obstacles in a patient's room were removed and patients considered most likely to fall were observed every hour.

    According to NurseWeek, the three-step approach continues to effectively reduce falls throughout the hospital. Units now are competing to be the first unit to go 45 days without a fall (DeLima, NurseWeek, 6/13).

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