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Red-Socks St. Paul's Hospital

Adapted from a similar program in the USA, the “Red Socks” pilot project rolled out on two units at St. Paul’s Hospital in August 2016 to increase visibility of patients considered high-risk for falling. In conjunction with Falls Injury Prevention guidelines, red socks are helping staff to more easily identify patients who are at risk for falling and reducing harm as a result. We hope their success will inspire others to try out red socks!

Falls prevention has always been a key priority for St. Paul’s Hospital, which recently adopted new Falls Injury Prevention guidelines across the organization, and this new cost-effective approach is raising more awareness about this important patient safety issue.

Last fall, the Red Socks pilot project kicked off on 5A and 5B, the cardiac medical and surgical units, where many patients are considered high-risk for falls due to the side-effects of sedation, multiple medications and heart failure. 

Rachel Garner, Clinical Nurse Leader, and Lucy Wilkinson, Physiotherapist, assist a patient wearing red socks to help raise awareness about falls prevention at St. Paul’s Hospital.

Rachel Garner, Clinical Nurse Leader, and Lucy Wilkinson, Physiotherapist, assist a patient wearing red socks to help raise awareness about falls prevention at St. Paul’s Hospital.

Karen LeComte, Clinical Nurse Specialist, St. Paul’s Heart Centre, and Meghan MacLeod, Performance Improvement Consultant, St Paul’s Heart Centre, who led the project say red socks are a visual cue to anybody who may come in contact with patients at risk – especially when they are away from their room where signage indicating “falls risk” resides. By having that visual awareness, hospital staff, the patient’s family and other hospital visitors will pay particular attention and offer assistance if a patient is struggling with mobility.

“Hospital policy is for all patients to wear non-slip socks even if they’re not considered a falls risk, so we wanted to take that one step further by putting red socks on our patients who are more likely to fall.”

Before the pilot, the project team conducted a pre-assessment survey to assess staff comfort levels with identifying patients at risk for falls – 53% of staff felt they could identify a patient who is at high-risk for falling. After red socks were implemented the number increased to 92%. “I like red socks,” said one nurse. “They are a good indicator for me to recognize patients who are at high-risk for falling, especially patients not assigned to me.”

Along with red socks, the team is developing posters and brochures for patients, families and staff so everyone understands the purpose of red socks and how the program is keeping patients safe. After being given red socks, one patient said, “I didn’t know what they were for until you told me why I was wearing red socks. Now I feel like everyone is looking out for me!”

A woman whose mother had fallen previously in hospital, said “Thank you. We appreciate the red socks idea and it’s good to know that the nurses are looking out for my mom.”

Although still early days, the project is getting noticed by other areas in the hospital so the team is hoping red socks will become standard practice of care. “People are excited by the idea, that’s the feedback we’re hearing. Staff love it and patients and families love it too.”

Congratulations to the 5A and 5B teams!

How is your organization preventing patient falls? Leave your comments below or contact us with your story!

The 5A and 5B teams would like to acknowledge the St. Paul’s Foundation Patient Enhancement Fund for their generous donation to the Red Socks pilot project.
Karen LeComte is a Clinical Nurse Specialist with the Heart Centre at St. Paul’s Hospital. Her goal is to support others to embed the red socks falls prevention protocol in other areas of the hospital and develop educational resources for patients and families. You can reach Karen at klecomte@providencehealth.bc.ca

Meghan MacLeod is a Performance Improvement Consultant at Providence Health Care. Part of her role is to assist the Heart Centre at St. Paul’s Hospital to use quality improvement principles to understand and improve processes supporting patient care. This includes addressing opportunities discovered in the regular review of BCPSLS data. You can reach Meghan at mmacleod@providencehealth.bc.ca

Rachel Garner, Christine Albay, Holly Andrews and Carrie Bancroft are Clinical Nurse Leaders in the Heart Centre Surgical and Medical inpatient units. Their role in managing the daily operations of the cardiac units enables them to provide direction and monitor quality improvement initiatives such as the red socks project.

Susan Roth and Jenn Mutch are Clinical Nurse Educators in the Heart Centre. Their role supports education on practice changes that enable quality improvement, including the Red Socks pilot project.

Julie Carleton is a Professional Practice Consultant at Providence Health Care. She championed the idea that brought red socks to the Heart Centre!

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