Every patient walking through the doors at BC Cancer Agency (BCCA) is dealing with some form of cancer. A disease that impacts the lives of far too many people in British Columbia every day. While it might seem odd to associate falls prevention with cancer treatment, it makes good sense.

“Anyone coming to our facility has the potential to fall,” says Sue Fuller-Blamey, Corporate Director, Quality & Safety. “Many of our patients are very sick and on multiple medications. A number of years ago we realized that we needed a more comprehensive out-patient falls prevention program to ensure our patients were safe, whether they were receiving treatment here in Vancouver, or at any one of the cancer centres in BC.”

Out-patient falls prevention is a relatively new Required Organizational Practice (ROP) for Accreditation Canada and there is growing evidence to support the implementation of an out-patient falls prevention strategy for all health organizations, regardless of acuity, in keeping our patients safer.

Sue says there can be several side effects to radiation and chemotherapy. Confusion, fatigue, nausea and general weakness are not uncommon, and any one of these factors may lead to an increased risk of falling. To help mitigate this safety concern, an increased focus on falls prevention was undertaken, improving the way patients are cared for at BC Cancer Centres across the province.

“We began this initiative by taking a closer look at our BC PSLS data to get an idea of how often patients were falling and why,” says Sue. “We weren’t surprised to see very little falls. We provide cancer care so staff weren’t accustomed to reporting falls in BC PSLS. In discussions with front-line staff we found that there had been patient falls, but staff were unaware that they should be reporting these in the system.”

Sue explained that her quality and safety colleagues teamed up with front-line leaders to develop a falls prevention program that would suit the unique needs of BCCA patients and staff. After several months, new educational tools are now helping to raise awareness about patient falls at all BCCA facilities:

  • Over 3,000 BCCA staff have attended a falls awareness and prevention education class
  • Patient intake questionnaires (for new patients coming to BCCA) have been revised to include specific questions about falls risk
  • A new eLearning course is available 24/7 for BCCA staff (and other healthcare staff who might be interested)
  • New relationships have been formed with Falls Prevention Community Care Clinics around the province

“All of this work has made a big difference in how we approach falls prevention,” Sue says. “95% of BCCA staff and leaders from across the province are aware of why this is important for our patients. Even our President, Dr. Max Coppes, knows falls prevention is for everybody.”

Sue says that for many BCCA staff, it was the first time people realized it was their responsibility to watch out for patients at risk for falling. “We’re all more aware of what to watch for.”

Congratulations to BCCA staff for recognizing an opportunity to improve patient safety!

Sue Fuller-Blamey is Corporate Director of Quality & Safety for BC Cancer Agency Vancouver Cancer Centre, where she’s worked for the past five years. Previously, she was with BC Children’s Hospital as Manager, Paediatrics and Access & Utilization. For more information about how BC Cancer Agency facilities are improving patient safety through proactive falls prevention, please contact her by email at sxfblamey@phsa.ca

Additional resource:

Preventing Falls: From Evidence to Improvement in Canadian Health Care


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