Oakbrook Terrace, IL: Joint Commission: October 2019.
Inpatient suicide is increasing as a safety concern. This case analysis offers two levels of examination of a hypothetical patient suicide: one that outlines points of failure in the patient’s care and the other that shares strategies to prevent the event from occurring.
A suicide attempt by a hospitalized patient is considered a never event. The majority of inpatient suicides occur in psychiatric units, but a prior Joint Commission sentinel event alert suggested that nearly 15% of attempts happen on medical wards. This study reviewed root cause analysis reports of suicide attempts on medical units in the Veterans Health Administration between 1999 and 2012. Fifty cases were identified and five represented completed suicides. Alcohol withdrawal was the most common reason for admission among patients who attempted suicide while hospitalized. The case reviews revealed communication failures, such as lack of discussion about suicide risks or mitigation plans during handoffs to other medical providers, as common contributors to these events. The authors recommend improved staff education, standardized communication for suicide risk, and protocols for appropriate management of suicidal patients. A prior article provided further implementation strategies for avoiding inpatient suicides.
Admitted to the hospital complaining of difficulty breathing and swallowing, a Vietnamese man was diagnosed with reflux disease and an outpouching of the esophagus. The patient was anxious and repeatedly stated that he was "dying" from his physical ailments. During a gastroenterology consultation, the patient ran to the restroom and jumped out the window, killing himself.
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