• treatment implementation;
  • side rail;
  • advanced practice nurse;
  • nursing homes;
  • physical restraint

OBJECTIVES: To examine the effect of an advanced practice nurse (APN) intervention on restrictive side rail usage in four nursing homes and with a sample of 251 residents. A secondary question explored the association between restrictive side rail reduction and bed-related falls.

DESIGN: Pre- and posttest design.

SETTING: Four urban nursing homes.

PARTICIPANTS: All nursing home residents present in the nursing home at three time points (n=710, 719, and 707) and a subset of residents (n=251) with restrictive side rail use at baseline.

INTERVENTION: APN consultation with individual residents and facility-wide education and consultation.

MEASUREMENTS: Direct observation of side rail status, resident and nurse interview for functional status, mobility, cognition, behavioral symptoms, medical record review for demographics and treatment information, and incident reports for fall data.

RESULTS: At the institutional level, one of the four nursing homes significantly reduced restrictive side rail use (P=.01). At the individual participant level, 51.4% (n=130) reduced restrictive side rail use. For the group that reduced restrictive side rails, there was a significantly (P<.001) reduced fall rate (−0.053; 95% confidence interval (CI)=−0.083 to −0.024), whereas the group that continued restrictive side rail did not demonstrate a significantly (P=.17) reduced fall rate (−0.013; 95% CI=−0.056–0.030).

CONCLUSION: An APN consultation model can safely reduce side rail use. Restrictive side rail reduction does not lead to an increase in bed-related falls. Although side rails serve many purposes, routine use of these devices to restrict voluntary movement and prevent falls is not supported.