Using Compassion to Prevent Patient Assault

Photo: michaeljung / iStock / Thinkstock
You’re in health care because you care—about patient well-being, health, and safety. Yet the health care sector continues to take the lead in lost work days due to “non-fatal assault” worker injuries. What do you do if you have to worry about your own safety, too?
When a patient becomes agitated, the person often loses the ability to make decisions, accept medical procedures, or cooperate with staff. Multiple cases of staff being threatened, assaulted, or injured while responding to patients in crisis flood the ECRI Institute PSO (Patient Safety Organization), yet there are far fewer reports on how such events are handled, let alone recognized and prevented. Patients displaying psychiatric or aggressive behavior are also at risk to themselves.
How do we help prevent and reduce assault and injury in the hospital? By first learning to recognize the signs and signals that precede agitation and aggression, such as:
  • Raised voice/cursing
  • Pacing or other physical agitation
  • Threats to clinicians or others
  • Aggressive use of objects in the environment (e.g., pulling, grabbing, throwing)
De-escalation training helps staff develop the necessary confidence and competence to respond appropriately to agitation and outbursts, resulting in a minimum of risk and injury to themselves and the patient. Additionally, early psychiatric assessment and intervention could reduce the risk of potentially dangerous behaviors.
Learn more in ”Lessons From the Frontline: Compassionate Approaches to Preventing Patient Violence."
Watch our webinar, From Chaos to Calm: How to Create a Safe and Caring Hospital
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About the Author

“All big things are made of little things. Every part counts!”