RUMFORD — Six months after implementing a new patient fall-prevention program, Rumford Hospital has hit a milestone most hospitals dream of reaching.

More than 30 employees, ranging from registered nurses and certified nursing assistants to therapy staff and environmental services staff, met in the Rumford Hospital conference room Monday afternoon for a ceremony celebrating 180 days without a patient fall.

Becky Hall, director of nursing at the Rumford Hospital, said that from July 2013 to June 2014, Rumford Hospital inpatients experienced 35 falls over the course of 5,736 patient days, an average of 6.132 falls per 1,000 patient days.

A news release by the Rumford Hospital said the 35 falls in 2013 equated to an average cost of $15,580 to the hospital.

After implementing the Fall Prevention Program on July 15, 2014, Hall said there have been no falls.

“I tried Googling other hospitals that have seen a reduction in their fall rate, and I wasn’t able to find anything,” Hall told the nursing staff.

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David Frum, CEO of the Rumford Hospital, said the idea behind the Fall Prevention Program is changing the mindset and the culture that falls are a likely event that happens in a hospital.

“We now have the mindset that falls are preventable,” Frum said. “The work here you’re doing is already being translated across the corporation. Over the last 100 days, Bridgton Hospital has only had two falls, which is down significantly from where they were a year ago.”

According to a report from the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, Hall said, “nearly a million patients fall in U.S. hospitals every year, and of those patients, almost 50 percent have falls with injury.”

Hall added that in the state of Maine, patient falls are second only to pressure ulcers as the most reportable events at a hospital.

“One of the things that makes patient falls so complex here is our high level of elderly population,” Hall said. “Some patients may have weak muscles, or use a cane or a walker to get around, so if there’s an obstacle in the way, it creates a fall risk. There are also environmental factors, such as a bed being left too high, or not responding to call bells fast enough.”

Hall said that after looking at patient fall reports from the previous year, she and her staff realized that 80 percent of patients falls came while the patients were going to and from the bathrooms.

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“It’s not the only cause of patient falls, but it’s one of the things we zeroed in on,” Hall said. “We tried to find ways to increase education on patient falls to patients and their families.”

One change implemented was to have patients sign a contract stating that they won’t get up by themselves if they have to go to the bathroom, or get out of bed for any reason.

“Instead, we’re asking them to call us so we can get into the room and help,” Hall said. “A lot of times, patients get tired in the evening, and depending on what type of medication they’re on, they might have trouble walking on their own. This way, we’re involving the patient in recognizing fall risks in addition to the nursing staff.”

The staff has also worked on educating patients and their family members to each individual patient’s fall risk on admission to the hospital.

A list of safety advice is left in the room for each patient and family members, Hall said, adding that “hourly rounds by the certified nurses’ aides with the focus on patient comfort, safety and attention to personal needs have been instituted.”

Hope Calderwood, head of the hospital’s Rehabilitation Department, said the hospital’s next goal is to reach 365 days without a patient fall, and to roll out a medication phase of the Fall Prevention Program.

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“The idea is to try and reduce the number of medications we give patients that create fall risks,” Calderwood said. “We’re also hoping to focus on cognition, delirium and dementia within our patients.”

Calderwood described the Rumford Hospital staff as “superheroes” for their willingness to go above and beyond to make sure there are no patient falls.

“Underneath your scrubs, each of you is a superhero,” Calderwood said. “You made changes in how you worked and took the time to care for the patients and educate them on fall risks.”

Hall said she has always been proud of the hospital’s staff, but “never more so than I am right now.”

“The staff here at the hospital should be proud of themselves,” Hall said. “Having any hospital go six months without a patient fall is a big deal. It’s not just the CNAs or the RNs that resulted in this. It’s the techs, the therapy staff, the environmental services staff and the dietary staff. Anybody who comes in contact with a patient is responsible for this.”

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