Falls are a “hot topic in the medical-legal arena,” says Charlene Pearman, BSN, RN, LNC, a Charleston, SC-based legal nurse consultant. This includes the ED setting. “If a patient falls and sustains a serious injury or dies while being cared for in a healthcare setting, it’s a really big deal. Medicare won’t pay for it, for example,” Pearman says.

Multiple organizations have released guidelines and recommendations on fall prevention. “It is fodder for a plaintiff attorney. They can quote all of the strong language written by oversight organizations to strengthen their case,” Pearman explains.

There are several questions that will become important in a case alleging ED nurses failed to prevent a patient’s fall injury:

  • Did the nurse assess for fall risk properly?
  • Did the ED have a plan to prevent falls?
  • Did providers implement the plan?
  • Did leaders evaluate their process?
  • Did providers follow policies and procedures?

“In the ED, it can be hard to show that the nurse worked through the nursing process because everything happens so fast,” Pearman says.

Nonetheless, ED nurses need to ensure their documentation reflects all they did to prevent the fall. “Find a way to show that you did your job,” Pearman offers. As for hospitals, it is important that they maintain good policies and procedures regarding safety and falls, train nurses properly, and provide enough staffing for nurses to do their job safely. “If hospitals can show that, then they are going to have a much better chance at defending themselves,” Pearman predicts.