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Locating a Missing Patient at Your Hospital

It’s a normal day at your hospital, when you hear there is a patient missing from their assigned room, what do you do? Any missing person is a red flag, but the risk is even higher when a patient is missing from their hospital room. They are at risk of harm to themselves, others, not receiving their medications, and worrying their families. Today we are going to give you some procedures which should be part of your missing patient protocols in your hospital or smaller healthcare facility.

When a staff member notices a patient is missing, they should immediately notify the floor, shift or department supervisor in charge. The missing patientsupervisor will initiate a search of the immediate area, which includes immediate staff. Staff should begin to quietly check other patient rooms to not cause concern and near and around all exits. At the same time, the supervisor should inform hospital security personnel of a missing patient including a detailed physical description.

The supervisor should delegate someone to either check the visitor sign in kiosk or log book, for information on the last person to visit the missing patient, and contact them if the patient is not found within a few moments. If the patient is not located within a reasonable amount of time, the supervisor should ask other shift, floor or department supervisors in the immediate area to begin a search as well, creating a larger perimeter for the search. A detailed description of the patient should be given out to those searching including: name, age, gender, description of clothes, features, distinguishing features, mental status, mobility, etc.

It is critical for all staff to be trained on missing patient procedures for a timely response. When a patient is missing from their hospital room, seconds count on finding them safe and secure; those seconds cannot be wasted by staff trying to remember protocol. To ensure patients are found quickly and safely, and that legal issues are mitigated, train staff to enact missing patient procedures in a timely manner and have effective communication in place to locate the patient.

Hospitals are large and complex in nature, from a variety of departments, floors, visiting areas, emergency rooms, operating rooms, and testing areas. When a patient goes missing, it can be a struggle to safely locate them in a timely manner, but their safe return is critical. Procedures should be in place for hospital staff to communicate about a missing patient and work together to search their assigned areas until the patient is found. These tips should help you to locate a missing hospital patient more easily. Let us know what other procedures your healthcare facility uses in the comments section below!

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