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After a fall in the hospital

Hospital safety - falls; Patient safety - falls

Falls can be a serious problem in the hospital. Factors that increase the risk of falls include:

  • Poor lighting
  • Slippery floors
  • Equipment in rooms and hallways that gets in the way
  • Being weak from illness or surgery
  • Being in new surroundings

Hospital staff often do not see patients fall. But falls require attention right away to lessen the risk of injury.

When the Patient Falls

If you are with a patient when they begin to fall:

  • Use your body to break the fall.
  • Protect your own back by keeping your feet wide apart and your knees bent.
  • Make sure the patient's head does not hit the floor or any other surface.

After the Fall

Stay with the patient and call for help.

  • Check the patient's breathing, pulse, and blood pressure. If the patient is unconscious, not breathing, or does not have a pulse, call a hospital emergency code and start CPR.
  • Check for injury, such as cuts, scrapes, bruises, and broken bones.
  • If you were not there when the patient fell, ask the patient or someone who saw the fall what happened.

If the patient is confused, shaking, or shows signs of weakness, pain, or dizziness:

  • Stay with the patient. Provide blankets for comfort until medical staff arrives.
  • DO NOT raise the patient's head if they may have a neck or back injury. Wait for medical staff to check for a spinal injury.

Once medical staff decides the patient can be moved, you need to choose the best way.

  • If the patient is not hurt or injured and does not appear ill, have another staff member help you. Both of you should help the patient into a wheelchair or into bed. DO NOT help the patient on your own.
  • If the patient cannot support most of his or her own body weight, you may need to use a backboard or a lift.

Watch the patient closely after the fall. You may need to check the person's alertness, blood pressure and pulse, and possibly blood sugar.

Document the fall according to your hospital's policies.

References

Andrews J. Optimizing the built environment for frail older adults. In: Fillit HM, Rockwood K, Young J, eds. Brocklehurst's Textbook of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier, 2017:chap 132.

Schlaudecker JD, Bernheisel CR, Mount HR. Hospital care. In: Ham RJ, Sloane PD, Warshaw GA, Potter JF, Flaherty E, eds. Ham's Primary Care Geriatrics: A Case-Based Approach. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 10.

Witham MD. Ageing and disease. In: Walker BR, Colledge NR, Ralston SH, Perman ID, eds. Davidson's Principles and Practice of Medicine. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2014:chap 7.

Review Date: 2/18/2018

Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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