Quality & Safety

  • Up and Down

Up and Down

How Mary Greeley Works to Prevent Patient Falls

By Susan Flansburg

Getting patients up and about is an important step in the healing process.

It reduces the chances of post-surgical complications such as hospital-acquired pneumonia and pressure ulcers. It can decrease the length of a hospital stay and increase the likelihood of discharge to home.

Here’s the catch, though: Patients are often in a vulnerable state, which poses the risk of fall. Hospitals hate falls. They can lead to injuries and extend hospital stays.

That’s why Mary Greeley has a major fall prevention effort involving a variety of interventions to reduce falls with injury. We also provide training to teach staff how to lower patients to the floor when they are losing their balance.

Here’s a look at what we do to keep patients safe, as well as the roles patients and families play in the effort.

Before Moving

Room Location

Our highest-risk patients are placed nearest the nursing station to keep them closest to help if needed. We also have low beds available for high-risk patients.

Patient Armbands

Identifying those who are at risk with armbands allows all staff members to know at a glance that they need to provide ambulation assistance from wheelchair to destination.

Telesitters

Telesitters help alert staff to an attempt to stand, sending information to a technician who will remind your loved one not to climb out of bed or the chair unassisted.

Volunteers

Our Patient Safety Volunteer Program provides trained volunteers who visit patients to ensure safety protocols are in place. This may involve checking chair or bed alarms, or placing a fall risk band on a patient’s wrist. Since April 2012, Patient Safety Volunteers have visited more than 29,000 patients.

Fall Risk Signs

Notices placed on doors alert us to a patient’s status, but they also remind visitors to help keep patients safe. If you see a sign outside your loved one’s room, encourage her or him to wait for professional help before getting out of bed or a chair. Your intervention could make all the difference!

Hourly Rounds

By checking on our patients every hour, we strive to meet their needs before they need help with medications, position adjustment, trips to the bathroom, or personal items. Regular visits help keep them comfortable and content.

Bed, Chair Alarms

Patient beds are equipped with alarms that can be activated for those who are fall risks, and alarms can be added to chairs. When the alarms go off, they help remind patients to remain seated and alert staff to the need for immediate attention. Never turn off the bed or chair alarm please. Yes, the sound may be a bit annoying, but that alarm is one of the most important safety tools in a patient room.

Hourly rounding helps prevent falls by determining a patient’s needs before they need to call staff. Every hour, while the patient is awake, a member of the care team will check on the status of what we call a patient’s “P” list: potty, pain, position, and personal items (making sure they are within reach).

Data to Stand By

Here’s how we reduce falls by studying falls.

Mary Greeley routinely studies incidents of fall to determine the causes and gather insights into prevention. Recently, the medical center launched a project to compile statistical data related to individual fall incidents. We use data from past falls, including falls with and without injury, to help our care teams understand why falls happen and come up with meaningful solutions for reduction.

Here is what we’ve learned:

  • Patients often fall in the bathroom.
  • Patients who fall have often already been identified as a fall risk.
  • More falls happen in the evening.
  • More staff need to use proper technique to lower patients to the floor without injury.
  • Falls happen when Telesitters were not available because all are already in use.

Here is what has happened as a result of what we’ve learned:

  • All clinical staff took training on how to lower patients to the floor without injury.
  • Education around bathroom safety was increased.
  • Non-clinical staff have been trained to check bed alarms and chair alarms.
  • More Telesitter equipment was added.

Time to Move

On average, patients move from bed to chair at least three times a day for meals. When you consider bathroom breaks and exercise walks, that’s a lot of moving. Fall-risk patients require extra attention and, sometimes, extra equipment to manage their transfers. Besides canes and walkers, which are often used within hours of surgery, you might see the following:

Gait Belts

These simple straps wrap around a patient’s waist to allow medical professionals to help steady her or him. They work best for patients who are a bit unsteady on their feet.

Hoyer Lifts

Those who cannot bear weight enjoy extra security during transfers from bed to chair, thanks to patient lift devices such as the Hoyer Lift. These devices help reduce staff injuries, as well!

Sara Stedy

Sit-to-stand devices such as Sara Stedy work for patients with some muscular strength, but not enough to safely stand up by themselves. 

Fall Prevention at Mary Greeley- Click image to play YouTube Video

Fall Prevention On the Move

See how Mary Greeley helps educate staff and patients about extra equipment that is used to help manage patient transfers.

Staff, Patient and Guest Education

Follow the Guide

Each patient room has a blue Patient, Family, and Visitors’ Guide to Our Services, which includes information about fall prevention. Take a moment to read the section on Fall Prevention, which explains how we help patients and families understand how to prevent falls. If nothing else, please remember this great tip: Ask a hospital staff member if you need help to get out of bed or use the bathroom. Don’t try to do it yourself or with assistance from a visitor. Mary Greeley staff are trained to move you safely.

Clinical staff go through training so they can safely lower patients to the bed or floor if necessary. Supporting a patient from behind with your knee and appropriate use of a gait belt (hold it underhand) is part of the training.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Mary Greeley staff take computer-based learning courses on fall prevention. Our Rehab & Wellness physical therapists also trained all clinical staff how to assist a patient if they are falling. The key is supporting the patient from behind, using your knee to slowly lower a patient to the floor to avoid injury.