Medical Legal Consultant Evaluates Hospital Fall Protocols


Medical Legal ConsultingThis medico legal case takes place in Alabama and involves a female patient. she was admitted to the hospital for a minor surgical procedure. Post op, while the patient was documented as an elevated risk of falling, no bed alarms were placed or other preventative methods used to minimize her risk. Eventually, the woman attempted to adjust the blinds in her room on her own after calling for a nurse. She slipped and fell, suffering significant injuries. As a result of the injury, she endured numerous related complications which eventually led to a total loss of her mobility. It is alleged that the hospital failed to minimize the risk of falling for this patient, and ignored widely accepted norms for preventing falls.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Have you ever had a patient slip / fall while accessing the restroom?
  • 2. Given this patients condition and past medical history, and the fact that she was a documented elevated fall risk, should more precautions have been taken?
  • 3. Have you ever served as an expert witness on a similar matter?

Expert Witness Response E-011247

I routinely care for patients recovering from this procedure in a post-operative setting.  I have worked with students on a hospital unit specifically for these kind of patients for the past three and a half years at the hospital, where I am also employed on the clinical resource team.  As a nurse on the clinical resource team, I float to all medical surgical units. I take every precaution that I can for a patient that is a fall risk. I teach students in the clinical setting on medical surgical units and have for eight years. I have twenty-three years experience practicing as a registered nurse with much of that time spent working medical surgical nursing in a hospital.  I also have worked as a dialysis nurse and on a medical surgical unit, specifically for dialysis patients.

Expert Witness Response E-008244

I have some experience with these patients. Post op experience for this procedure varies. Patient falls are always a risk particularly after surgery or sedation. Whenever necessary, all fall precautions should be employed based on assessment of their current condition and history. There are multiple assessment tools and rubrics utilized in hospital settings. High risk of falls should be assessed multiple times a day and as needed based on changes in condition.

I am currently involved with 3 other cases, 2 of which involve falls. In the ICU, we orient and train a variety of students and new staff on all levels of assessment; basic assessment involves evaluating mobility, function, cognition level to properly determine whether they are at risk to fall. My license nor practice have never been the subject of a suit or claim.

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