Can you quickly identify patients at risk of falls?

Assessing patients for fall risk is an accreditation requirement and a 2005 National Patient Safety Goal, but this is difficult for EDs because time is limited, unlike at other hospital units that perform in-depth assessments, says Teresa Sumner, BSN, RN, CDONA/LTC, geriatric clinical nurse specialist and wound care coordinator at Lenoir Memorial Hospital in Kinston, NC.

Sumner developed a one-page checklist to assess ED patients for fall risk. "If any one of the items in the review is noted, the person is at risk for falls and a red band is applied to the patient," she says. As a result of the checklist, ED nurses are applying arm bands more often to identify patients at risk for falls, reports Sumner.

Nurses also implement prevention measures more often, such as moving patients to rooms nearby the triage station, leaving doors and curtains open when appropriate, and allowing family members to sit with patients.

The checklist was just updated to include benzodiazepenes and antiepileptics as risk factors.