Pt. Safety

Reduce Patient Falls



Loss of upright position that results in landing on the floor, ground or an object or furniture or a sudden, uncontrolled, unintentional, non-purposeful, downward displacement of the body to the floor/ground or hitting another object like a chair or stair.


Loss of balance as a result of slippery surface that does not result in a fall.


Loss of balance due to knees giving way or other reasons but does not result in a fall.


Loss of balance due to a specific obstacle that does not result in a fall.

Risk Factors

Extrinsic Factors:

  • Hazardous activities
  • Time of day
  • External lighting
  • Clutter
  • Spoils
  • Loose electrical cords

Intrinsic Factors:

  • Muscle and strength weakness
  • Gait and balance disorders
  • Visual disturbances
  • Cognitive impairment/Mental status alterations
  • Dizziness/Vertigo
  • Postural hypotension
  • Incontinence
  • Polypharmacy
  • Age
  • Chronic disease

Fall Risk Assessment

If any of these medical factors are present, go to Standard Fall Prevention Interventions:

  • Agitation/Delirium- infection, toxic/metabolic, cardiopulmonary change, CNS, dehydration/ blood loss, sleep disturbance
  • Meds (dose/timing)-psychotropics, CV agents (digoxin especially), anticoagulants(increased risk of injury), anticholinergic, bowel prep
  • Orthostatic hypotension, autonomic failure
  • Frequent toileting
  • Impaired mobility
  • Impaired vision, inappropriate use of assistive device/footwear
  • History of Falls (CV/light headed-dizzy, Dysequilibrium- loss of balance with no abnormal motion sensation, Vestibular/Vertigo, Weakness-Musculoskeletal/give way, combination, other)
  • Psychotropics, digoxin, type 1a antiarrhythmic, diuretic (thiazides>loop diuretics)
  • Antihistamines/benzodiazipines- withdrawal has shown decrease in falls risk, assess for sleep disorder, avoid routine PRN orders-try non-pharmacological approaches including quiet sleep protocols on units
  • Antidepressants- Tricyclics higher risk than SSRI, but SSRI’s have risk as well, high level of phenytoin; low dos amitriptyline affects gate; gabapentin 10-25% ADR
  • Cardiac drugs/antihypertensives- if orthostatic (drop in sys>20 mm in 3 min) and symptomatic
  • Anticoagulants – subdural hematomas are rare; avoid only if very unstable gait or balance, concurrent use of alcohol, or other drugs that interact and increase bleeding, or non-compliant with regimen or lab follow up
  • Drugs treating nocturia (consider tamsulosin due to lower risk of orthostasis)

Standard Fall Prevention Intervention

Low risk :

Nursing Staff:

Direct Care

  • Assess patient’s fall risk upon admission, change in status, transfer to another unit and discharge.
  • Assign the patient to a bed that enables the patient to exit toward his/her stronger side whenever possible.
  • Assess the patient’s coordination and balance before assisting with transfer and mobility activities.
  • Implement bowel and bladder programs to decrease urgency and incontinence.
  • Use treaded socks for all patients.


  • Actively engage patient and family in all aspects of Fall Prevention Program.
  • Instruct patient in all activities prior to initiating assistive devices.
  • Teach patient use of grab bars.
  • Instruct patient in medication time/dose, side effects, and interactions with food/medications.


  • Lock all moveable equipment before transferring patients.
  • Individualize equipment specific to patient needs.


  • Place patient care articles within reach.
  • Provide physically safe environment (eliminate spills, clutter, electrical cords, and unnecessary equipment).
  • Provide adequate lighting.

Medical Staff:

  • Evaluate and treat gait changes, postural instability, spasticity.
  • Initiate treatment for impaired vision, hearing.
  • Evaluate medication profile for fall risk.
  • Evaluate and treat pain.
  • Evaluate and treat orthostatic hypotension.
  • Assess and treat impaired central processing (dementia, delirium, stroke, perception)

High risk :

Nursing Staff


  • Consider use of: technology for fall prevention , non-skid floor mat, raised edge mattress.


  • Clear patient environment of all hazards

Medical Staff

  • Review medications for fall risk and adjust as indicated
  • CV agents – if orthostatic (drop in systolic > 20 mm in 3 minutes) and symptomatic
    • Discontinue HCTZ, liberalize sodium in diet
    • If ACE inhibitor appropriate, use agent with less renal metabolism (fosinopril)
    • If Calcium channel blocker – NOT nifedipine
    • If ß blocker – not cardioselective / not metoprolol / atenolol; use pindolol / propranolol
  • Consider referral to services such as physical medicine and rehabilitation, audiology, ophthalmology, cardiology.
  • Optimize treatment of underlying medical conditions.
  • Evaluate and treat for pain.
  • Evaluate circumstances surrounding fall for extrinsic and intrinsic contributing factors.


  • Exercise
  • Nutrition
  • Home safety
  • Plan for emergency fall notification procedure.

After a patient falls


  1. Assess for injuries (e.g. abrasion, contusion, laceration, fracture, head injury) and determine Level of Injury.
  2. Obtain and record sitting/standing vital signs.
  3. Assess for change in range of motion.
  4. Alert Physician.
  5. Follow organizational policies for patient monitoring.
  6. Document circumstances in medical record.
  7. Complete incident report.
  8. Assess intrinsic and extrinsic factors.
  9. Notify all team members of patient fall..


  1. Assess and treat any injury.
  2. Initiate diagnostic and treatment interventions for contributing causes.
  3. Determine probable cause of fall (history, physical factors, medications, laboratory values).
  4. Consult appropriate services.
  5. Evaluate and treat for pain.


  • Document circumstances in patient medical record.
    • Patient appearance at time of discovery
    • Patient response to event
    • Evidence of injury
    • Location
    • Medical provider notification
    • Medical/nursing actions
  • Complete Occurrence Variance Report (OVR)
  • Notify Nurse Manager or designee



  • Department of Veterans Affairs. (1996, June). Clinical practice guidelines: The prevention and management of patient falls. Tampa, Fl: Author.
  • Hendrich, A, Nyhuis, A, Kippenbrock, T, et al, (1995). Hospital falls: Development of a predictive model of clinical practice. Applied Nursing Research , 8. 129-139.

  • Hoskin A.F. (1998). Fatal Falls: Trends and Characteristics. Statistical Bulletin, Apr-Jun, 10-15.

  • Maki, B.E. (1997). Gait changes in older adults: Predictors of falls or indicators of fear? Journal of American Geriatrics Society, 45 , 313_20.

  • Morse J. (1997). Preventing patient falls . Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

  • National Safety Council. 1999. Report on Injuries in America . Itasca, IL.

  • Rawsky, E. (1998). Review of the literature on falls among the elderly. Image , 30(1), 47-2.

  • Steven, J, & Olson, S (1999, October). Check for safety. A home fall prevention checklist for older adults. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

  • Tideiksaar, R (1997). Falling in old age. Its prevention and management . (2nd ed). New York: Spinger Publishing.

  • VA National Center for Patient Safety (NCPS). (2000).

  • VISN 8 Patient Safety Center. (January 2001). Proceedings: Promoting Patient Freedom and Safety: Preventing Falls. VISN 8 Patient Safety Center of Inquiry: St. Pete Beach, FL.

  • VISN 8 Patient Safety center of Inquiry.(1998).

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Dr. Khalid Abulmajd

Healthcare Quality Consultant

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