News | Published January 24, 2013 | Written by Gail Miller, RN, MS, CPHQ, vice president for quality, Mount Nittany Health

Take steps with your healthcare provider to play an active role in patient safety

When you are receiving medical treatment, you not only expect – you deserve – to receive quality care. And an important factor in quality care is patient safety.

Patient safety must be a high priority to your healthcare provider, but we also encourage that you – as a patient – take an active role in your own safety and treatment process. One patient safety precaution that both you and your healthcare provider can take together is preventing falls at a hospital.  

The risk of falling in a hospital may be increased even to people who are usually stable. Illness, medicine, changes in your sleep schedule and surgery may increase your risk for falls, so it’s important that both you and your healthcare provider work together to prevent falls and the injury that can happen if you fall.

When you are admitted to the hospital, your healthcare provider will assess your risk of falling based on your diagnosis, medications, previous history and current observation. Please tell your nurse or doctor if you have fallen recently or if you need help walking (walker, cane, holding on to furniture to walk or needing to sit down frequently to prevent falling).

Discuss your risk of falling with your healthcare provider so you understand how you can prevent a fall. Many falls occur when people are alert and oriented, so talk to your healthcare provider about your risk and the special conditions of the hospital setting that may cause you to fall. For example, if you are accustomed to using or temporarily need to use a piece of furniture for help standing, you will find that some hospital furniture moves – like tables and IV stands. Also, varying blood pressure can affect balance, and certain medication may place you at a higher risk for falls. Ask your healthcare provider to discuss the factors that may contribute to falling in a hospital setting, and learn what you can do to avoid falling.

At Mount Nittany Medical Center, healthcare providers monitor patients by having them wear color coded footwear that indicates their risk of falling (red socks means the patient should not get out of bed without help, yellow indicates that the patient needs assistance with walking and using the restroom, and green means that the patient is able to walk independently). This is one way your healthcare provider can monitor your actions to help lower your risk of falling. You can help prevent yourself from falling by following these steps:

  • Ring your bedside call bell button if you are about to stand and feel weak or dizzy, were given medicine for pain or sleeping, or this is the first time you are getting out of bed after surgery
  • Follow instructions given by your doctor or nurse about whether you may get out of bed, use the bathroom or walk in the hallways
  • Wear non-skid socks or slippers while walking in your room or around the hospital
  • Use any devices that you need to walk steadily, including a cane, walker, wheelchair or crutches

You’re safety is important, so work with your healthcare provider to help take part in your patient safety. For more information on patient safety and fall prevention, visit