Safety Rounds Reduce Falls and Injuries

From left: Iris DeMata, RN, and Catherine O’Connor, RN, pass the timer for safety rounds.

Every 15 minutes, 24/7, a Phelps Memorial Hospital Center staff member checks inside each unit room to ensure all patients have two feet on the floor or two in the bed. The 15-Minute Safety Rounds Program reduced patient falls by 10 percent in 2014 compared to the previous year. The program also eliminated falls with moderate to severe injuries entirely — a significant improvement over 2013, when six patients fell and suffered moderate to severe injuries that required surgery.

There was some concern about adding the rounds to the nurses’ already busy schedules, said Mary McDermott, RN, chief nursing officer. But the medical unit that piloted the program was sold on the first day, when the rounds prevented three patients from falling.

The CNO praised the efforts of Cheryl Burke, RN, clinical educator for med/surg, as the “catalyst for our team’s embracing this new initiative. Her enthusiasm and motivation made it easy to adopt.” One staff member at a time holds onto a timer that marks each 15-minute period. Every 15 minutes, the timer beeps and gets passed to the next scheduled staff member, who then conducts a falls check. The safety rounds generally take three or four minutes. Each staff member on the day’s 24-hour schedule usually performs safety rounds two or three times during a shift.

“If staff members are unable to perform rounds when the timer is passed to them,” Ms. Burke said, “they can hand it off to someone else.” Since the program’s introduction by nursing staff, safety rounds have become a multidisciplinary responsibility and have been implemented hospital-wide. Staff members from other departments, such as environmental services and hospitality, also participate in the safety rounds.

Not many hospitals perform 15-minute safety rounds, Ms. Burke said, “but those who thought it couldn’t be done are wrong. It can be done, and at minimal cost – just the cost of the timer.”

Ms. McDermott noted an added benefit: “Because patients see staff not only during safety rounds, but also during regular hourly rounds, the additional staff presence has resulted in unexpected gains in patient-satisfaction scores.”

In addition to improved patient safety and satisfaction, Ms. McDermott appreciates the ultimate cost savings from the program, since a fall with injury can cost a hospital as much as $27,000. “Even more importantly,” said Ms. McDermott, “I am proud of the staff’s commitment to patient safety.” 

Focus onHealth TV

Watch Focus onHealth, Northwell Health's TV show. It's the healthy way to stay informed!