Advanced nursing and your role in fall prevention

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, between 700,000 and 1 million people in the United States fall in the hospital each year. As an aspiring chief nursing officer or clinical nursing educator, learning how to ensure hospital safety operations comply with established standards and regulations should be at the top of your educational to-do list.

Falls are a major concern, as falls can result in fractures, lacerations, internal bleeding and other injuries that can lead to increased healthcare utilization. And, research shows that one-third of falls can be prevented.

Nurses play a pivotal role in hospital safety. As a hospital administrator or nurse educator, you are responsible for providing nurses with  appropriate information about patient fall risks and established safety standards to prevent falls.

Chief nursing officers and administrative responsibilities in fall prevention

  • Ensure hospital leadership supports staff in fall reduction initiatives
  • Assess current staff education practices and facilitate integration of new knowledge on fall prevention into existing or new practices
  • Set expectations for all staff – not just nurses – that quality is a shared responsibility
  • Encourage individual ownership and accountability for patient safety and quality
  • Break down silos and approach falls from a team mentality
  • Create a safe culture for reporting errors without blame
  • Hold staff accountable for their individual fall prevention responsibilities
  • Provide ongoing, engaging and meaningful feedback to staff
  • Make sure you have adequate nursing staff when resources are scarce

Nurse educator responsibilities in fall prevention

  • Strengthen curricula to emphasize the concepts and skills needed to participate in fall prevention activities
  • Empower nurses to lead in patient care
  • Help nurses translate fall prevention theory into practice at the bedside
  • Incorporate program/interventions into daily existing workflow
  • Prepare nurses to be more adept at translating their observations of problems at the bedside into an effective improvement effort, and help aspiring nurses understand how to use data to change practice
  • Implement a universal fall precaution practice (see below)
  • Conduct safety rounds
  • Keep the data reports current, including national and state benchmarks

Universal fall precautions for nurses

  • Familiarize the patient with the environment
  • Have the patient demonstrate call light use
  • Maintain call light within reach
  • Keep the patient’s personal possessions within patient safe reach
  • Have sturdy handrails in patient bathrooms, rooms and hallways
  • Place the hospital bed in low position when a patient is resting in bed; raise bed to a comfortable height when the patient is transferring out of bed
  • Keep hospital bed brakes locked
  • Keep wheelchair wheel locks in “locked” position when stationary
  • Keep nonslip, comfortable, well-fitting footwear on the patient
  • Use night-lights or supplemental lighting
  • Keep floor surfaces clean and dry, and clean up all spills promptly
  • Keep patient care areas uncluttered
  • Follow safe patient handling practices

Spring Arbor University offers an online master’s-level nursing program for nurses who want to advance into positions of nursing education and nursing administration. Within each of these programs, you will learn to establish and manage hospital safety operations, like fall prevention, in a clinical environment.

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