The number one cause of patient injuries at hospitals is falling. Patients who fall in hospitals can be left with serious injury, including traumatic brain injury which can lead to death. A 90-year-old female patient fell at Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, hitting her head on the metal sill of a closet. Though she seemed fine at first, complaining only of back pain, she was unresponsive and vomiting 30 minutes later. The patient never regained responsiveness and died before the day was over.
Sadly, most hospital falls can be prevented. Nurse shortages, inefficient work environments, slippery floors, and hospital negligence can lead to damaging inpatient falls. Hospitals across the country are going to great measures to avoid inpatient falls by implementing aggressive fall prevention programs. Many US hospitals, including Fairview Hospital, are being more attentive to patients who they have identified as high-risk for falling. High-risk for falling patients in these hospitals wear bright colored socks and blankets, and special alarms are installed in their rooms to alert hospital staff if the patient is trying to get out of bed.
Even with the assertive preventative measures that hospitals have implemented within the past few years, it has been suggested that their methods of identifying patients as high-risk for falling may be inaccurate. Patients may be considered as high-risk for falling simply because of their age, but there are many other reasons that patients should be considered high-risk. Any patients with altered mobility or ineffective gait, patients who are on multiple drugs, or patients that have just come out of surgery or have lost a lot of blood are also at high-risk of falling, no matter their age.
Hospitals have a duty to protect their patients, and failure to do so can be considered medical negligence.