Preventing Patient Violence

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“Frontline staff can become quickly overwhelmed with the care of challenging, combative patients, and may feel abandoned and without the resources to do their jobs safely,” writes patient safety analyst Ruth Ison.
So how can nurses, doctors, security staff, and other healthcare workers prevent assaults and injuries?
“De-escalation training,” writes Ison, “by raising awareness of one’s own responses to fear and anxiety and teaching alternative behavior modes, contributes to creating a culture of safety in which providers and security staff develop confidence in their communication and crisis management skills.”
One key to preventing patient violence that Ison highlights is recognizing that agitation and violence are “symptoms of underlying conditions that have multiple etiologies.” Recognizing the causes of violent behavior and the warning signs that surface when a patient is escalating is essential to preventing assaults.  
Another strategy is intervening early by letting patients know—through your words, actions, facial expressions, and body language—that you understand their distress. While it’s natural to be dismissive in stressful, fast-paced situations, showing respect for patients—even when they’re not showing respect for you—goes a long way toward helping them calm down.
Ison’s article also discusses:
  • Best practices for using medications and restraints with caution.
  • Complying with federal and state requirements and applicable standards such as those from TJC.
  • How crisis intervention training can help hospital security officers defuse volatile behavior and be a part of the patient care team.
Read Ison’s article, “Compassionate Approaches to Preventing Patient Violence” [PDF].
Get resources for providing trauma-informed care.
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About the Author

“I believe that more often than many people think is possible, we can prevent problems from getting out of control. We can make each other safer.”

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