Patient falls and resulting injuries are unfortunately an all too common issue facing healthcare systems today.
The American Nurses Association‘s (ANA) widely accepted definition describes a patient fall as “… an unplanned descent to the floor (or extension of the floor, e.g., trash can or other equipment) with or without injury to the patient, and occurs on an eligible reporting nursing unit. All types of falls are to be included whether they result from physiological reasons (fainting) or environmental reasons (slippery floor). Include assisted falls, such as when a staff member attempts to minimize the impact of the fall.”
The Cost of Falls
Healthcare providers aim to keep their patients safe at all times. A fall, particularly in elderly populations, can have profound consequences and can be difficult to overcome. According to Nurse.com, “It is estimated that between 700,000 and 1 million falls occur in U.S. hospitals annually costing real dollars, according to a Center for Disease Control and Prevention report, ‘Important Facts about Falls.‘ It also is estimated that more than $31 billion was spent on non-fatal fall injuries in 2015, reports the CDC. A hospital fall can add $14,000 and more than six days to a hospital stay, for example.”
Due to this pressing and costly issue, many nurses are turning to evidence-based practice for potential solutions for fall prevention.
EBP and Falls
Evidence-based practice, or EBP, is frequently used to deal with problematic areas in healthcare, such as patient care initiatives, workflow, infection prevention, quality improvement projects, and medical charting procedures. EBP provides useful insight into previously tested and researched methods.
Determining key issues leading to increased risk of falls is a crucial first step to implementing evidence-based practices and new policies. As Nurse.com reports, “Several reasons have been identified for hospital falls, including inadequate patient assessment, poor communication, and lack of adherence to protocols and general safety practices. By providing a safe hospital environment for patients, completing thorough clinical assessments, improving both patient and staff education and promoting open communication among team members, the clinical staff can minimize the risk of patient falls and improve patient safety.”
Looking toward specific fall prevention methods can help to significantly reduce the risk of secondary injuries. states, “An interdisciplinary approach is key because the evidence is clear: Fall-prevention programs that include only nurses aren’t effective. It takes a team to make a difference.”
The site goes on to highlight reducing overall fall risk by analyzing common behaviors prior to incidents, explaining, “Among hospitalized older adults, about 38% to 78% of falls can be anticipated. Evidence shows that one-third of reportable falls with injuries in hospitalized older adults are linked to bathroom use; more than half are associated with medications known to contribute to falls, such as antianxiety and antipsychotic drugs. Also, about 40% of falls occur within 30 minutes of an hourly rounding visit by healthcare providers.”
Nurses on the Front Line
Nursing interventions can have significant impacts on patient care. With their unique position on the front line, seeing risky patient behaviors first-hand, nurses can craft care plans geared toward a patients with a high fall risk, and prevent potentially life-threatening incidents.
Planning these interventions as a multi-member healthcare team promotes a safer environment for all patients, as evidenced by AmericanNurseToday.com‘s observations. “Because falls have multifactorial causes, an interprofessional team should collaborate in the comprehensive assessment. A standard assessment combines a systematic assessment with clinical decision-making, targeted interventions, care planning, and communication with other healthcare professionals.”
Evidence-based practice is utilized in many aspects of healthcare. Combined with previously researched methods proven to reduce incidence of falls, EBP provides nurses and other healthcare providers with accessible improvements to protect patients and prevent risk factors before an event. This ultimately results in better overall care for patient population that all healthcare providers strive to serve.
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