NORMAN — When Norman Regional Health System’s falls prevention program began in 2009, falls with injuries were reduced by 50 percent.
It’s not a statistic forgotten by Norman Regional Bariatric Coordinator Patricia McKinney. With this week’s National Patient Safety Awareness Week in mind, McKinney said the hospital is continually working to make that statistic the best it can be.
“It’d be wonderful to have no falls. It would be wonderful to have no falls with injuries. It’s not realistic, but we recognize that we want to do the very best we can to minimize those,” McKinney said. “There’s always going to be people falling. I mean, I’m clumsy. I can fall in the hallway without carpeting — just trip over my own feet. There are people that are just going to fall.”
The program identifies patients at high risk of falling — such as those on certain medications, in rehabilitation or the elderly — through various assessments. Once they are identified, McKinney said they work to eliminate risks that may exacerbate the problem, such as a cluttered room.
High-risk patients are identified by wearing skid-proof yellow socks and having a star placed on their doors. This way, McKinney said, all medical staff is able to be aware of the patients’ needs.
McKinney said the emphasis on preventing falls is so large because of the impact it can have on a patient’s ability to recover.
“With an injury with a fall, especially an elderly patient, that might actually be a terminal event. Say they fall and break their hip, it may be months later, but sometimes that’s like the straw that breaks that camel’s back. They just never get better,” she said. “If they have other health problems, we definitely don’t want to lay something additional on them. An injury from a fall — and especially for our elder population — we want to ensure we keep them as safe as possible because they are so fragile.”
If a fall, with or without injury, does occur, McKinney said a falls committee meets to discuss what happened and how they can improve for the future.
Fall or no fall, McKinney said the entire Norman Regional staff is working on making patients’ hospital stays as safe as possible.
“The more we’re checking on them, the more we reinforce the things they have to do to call for help, the more we’re by their side when they’re moving about the room, the less chance we have of someone really injuring themselves,” she said.
Patient Safety Awareness Week is an annual education and awareness campaign for health care safety led by National Patient Safety Foundation.
For more information on Patient Safety Awareness Week, visit www.npsf.org.