It’s all about the socks!

May 18, 2017 | News

Adapted from a similar program in the USA, the “Red Socks” pilot project rolled out on two units at St. Paul’s Hospital in Fall 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. 

Caption: (l to r) 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,” the two explained.

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!

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.

Story published with permission from BC PSLS, and the author, Michelle Preston.

Quality & Safety


I would love to join a group working on balance. I am a person who had aplastic anemia d/t a thymoma and now have to take cyclosporin for the rest of my life. It makes me dizzy and affects my balance.
Hi Regina, thank you for reaching out. If you are looking for a treatment group to help you reduce your risk of falls, please contact your family physician or health care practitioner who can refer you to a program that best suits your needs.

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