Moving a patient from one device to another– or typically referred to as a ‘transfer’– is one of the most essential services a nursing home provides to immobile patients, yet it is also one of the most common sources of patient injury.
Transfers are deemed to be such an important part of patient care, that all patients must be assessed to determine the type of assistance the facility is to provide for the patient.
Particularly for immobile patients, the assistance of one, two or sometimes even three staff members may be necessary to safely move the patient to a wheelchair, bed or other device. Unfortunately, even with the supervision of multiple staff members, transfers can easily result in a patient getting dropped or falling when the staff fail to act in concert or use proper lifting technique.
Because most patients involved in transfers have limited mobility to assist or to react to a situation, when patients are dropped— significant injuries commonly accompany.
Yet again, I was reminded about how sloppy transfers can result in significant injuries to patients when I read about a dementia patient who sustained a significant head injury when he fell from his bed during a transfer from his wheelchair. According to a recent article in the Des Moines Register, the patient fell from his bed while one of the two nursing home workers responsible for the transferring him diverted their focus away from the patient in order to get a pillow. While the worker was getting the pillow, the patient slid from the bed and hit his head on a nearby wheelchair suffering a bleed on his brain.
The patient was taken to a nearby hospital for medical attention and died several days later.
An investigation into this incident by nursing home inspectors confirmed that the staff involved in this incident indeed acted negligently and a fine was imposed against the facility.
As an attorney who works on transfer-related injuries in nursing homes and hospitals, I find these type of cases particularly disturbing because of the direct failure of staff to attend to patient needs. Though occasionally referred to as ‘falls’, transfer injuries are more aptly referred to as ‘dropping a pateint’ and are particularly concerning because almost all of these occurrences result from errors made exclusively by staff– as opposed to any contributory fault of the patient.
Lastly, in addition to a dropping incident itself, I find situations where staff fail to report these occurrences most alarming. Regardless of the severity of the incident, staff must make note of the incident itself and conduct an assessment of the patient to assure that any injuries are timely and compassionately taken care of.
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