A great deal of attention has been paid lately – rightfully so – to the subject of infections contracted in hospitals. Less focus has been placed on another source of serious and preventable injuries in hospitals – falls. The result of a fall down injury in a hospital may be severe. Patients are ill and often debilitated or disoriented to begin with. If a patient’s condition presents any appreciable risk of falling, the hospital has the obligation to assess and document the risk, and to take appropriate precautions.
Fall precautions may take many forms, for example, accompanying the patient, in a geri-chair, to the bathroom, prompt response to patient calls, raised side rails on the bed if no nurse is in immediate attendance, doctor’s orders that the patient be accompanied by a nurse or aide whenever mobile, even restraints where appropriate. Once a fall down risk is appreciated, the patient’s risk assessment must be kept up to date throughout the patient’s hospital stay. Hospital falls can result in severe injuries such as broken hips, traumatic brain injury, and other harm inconsistent with the hospital’s role as a place of healing.