Falls can be a serious problem in the hospital. They may be caused by:
Poor lighting, slippery floors, and equipment in rooms and hallways that gets in the way
Being weak from illness or surgery and 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 their 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 furniture.
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.
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 can evaluate them.
Do not raise the patient’s head if they may have injured their neck or back. 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 to move them.
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 their bed. Do not help them on your own.
If they cannot support most of their own body weight, you may need to use a backboard or a lift.
Watch the patient closely after their fall. You may need to check their alertness, their blood pressure and pulse, and perhaps their blood sugar.
Document the fall according to your hospital’s policies.
Geriatric care: Treatment: Fall Prevention and Management. In: Mills JE, ed. Nursing Procedures. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2004:chap 18.
David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.