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Reducing the risk of wandering patients

When patients in a New Mexico health care facility wander out of their unit, they are at risk for suffering from harm. There are some ways that hospital staff can reduce the risk of wandering patients including assessments, physical security, rules pertaining to patients who wander away and procedures for bringing them back.

It is recommended that hospital staff provide regular assessments when the patient is admitted, transferred or discharged to determine the risk that a particular patient may wander. Additionally, an assessment should be given if a patient's mental status changes. Patients who have a diagnosed mental disorder, who are considered dangerous, who are unable to make decisions for themselves or who are legally committed are often considered to be at risk. In some cases, physical security, such as locked units, motion sensor alarms and cameras may be used to monitor patients to prevent patient wandering.

In order to best reduce the risk of wandering, there are certain rules that are usually put into place. Patients must, for example, let the staff know when they leave the unit. Some hospitals have certain passes that they give to patients so other staff members know that particular patient has permission. Additionally, there may only be a specific amount of time the patient may be able to spend out of the unit before they must return. If a patient is wandering, staff must have specific procedures that they can use to return the patient to his or her unit.

If a patient wandered away from their unit with the staff's knowledge and then suffered an injury, the patient or family members may want to speak with an attorney in order to determine whether a lawsuit should be brought against the negligent facility or hospital staff Damages sought could include the costs of medical care and other losses that were sustained.

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