I’ve been reading some articles about a popular session at the 2013 National Council for Behavioral Health’s conference that was held this past April. The session, titled “Becoming Your Community’s Mayo Clinic of Behavioral Health,” run by Carl Clark and Linda LaGanga of the Mental Health Center of Denver, Sheryl Gangano and Harriet Markell of EMQ Families First, and Dale Jarvis of Dale Jarvis and Associates, identifies seven qualities they think Behavioral Health Centers of Excellence should be measured against.

In our ever-changing landscape of healthcare and mental health, I really identified with the seven elements they outlined, but I was also looking at them from a workplace violence prevention perspective as well. Here’s my spin on how the seven elements are supported by or made possible by a quality workplace violence prevention program.
  1. Rapid Access/Open Access
    As more and more people access our healthcare and behavioral health systems, we want to make sure that there is easy, fast, open access to services at all hours of the day. You can equip your facility with metal detectors or set up complex search procedures, and many facilities do this to protect this rapid, open access.

    However, international school safety expert Michael Dorn once told me that the best prevention still comes through the power of observation. So let’s equip our teams with the skills to recognize the early warning signs of potential crisis situations so we can keep the access flowing to our systems, while ensuring everyone’s safety when they arrive and while they wait.
  2. Comprehensive Whole-Person/Whole Family Care
    Whether you work in an acute care hospital, a behavioral health hospital, outpatient services, a school, or if you’re a human services provider, we can no longer just treat one aspect of the person. Our workplace violence prevention program has to consider the Precipitating Factors of acting-out or challenging behaviors that may stem from all aspects of the individual’s personal, family, and community life.

    It’s true that there are a myriad of factors that influence a person’s behaviors. Some factors may be psychological, but others may stem from a medical issue that’s untreated, or simply from the stress of the individual’s current situation. If our behavior management training focuses only on behaviors as the outcomes of criminal thinking (which could be the case), we miss many opportunities to work with that individual toward recovery.
  3. Culture of Resiliency and Recovery
    Let’s face it—most situations of noncompliance, hostile behavior, and even some assaultive behavior often stem from a situation where the individual feels powerless and is attempting to gain some control over their situation. Power struggles do not foster resiliency and recovery. Equipping staff with the skills to cooperate and collaborate with the individuals in their care can create an environment in which the individual can learn more productive coping skills and assist in their own recovery process in a much more effective manner.

    A young woman named Edith Campos died in a restraint following a power struggle over whether or not she could keep a picture of her family with her while being admitted. We want the individuals we care for to be able to process and cope with “no,” but at the same time, we want to teach that they can collaborate and compromise; that they can bounce back in life; that they can take an active role in their recovery—both physical and psychological.
  4. Outcomes-Based Care
    We can only change what we measure. We should all be focused on outcomes. As that relates to workplace violence prevention, are we improving practices as they relate to reducing the use of restraint and seclusion? Are we improving patient satisfaction scores and decreasing worker compensation claims related to workplace violence at the same time? Have we reduced our turnover because staff feel safe at work?
  5. High Value Services
    It’s much easier to focus on high-quality patient care when we don’t have to worry so much about how to manage and negotiate the tricky waters of workplace violence. If our culture is one of Care, Welfare, Safety, and SecuritySM for all, we can focus on improving our patient care practices and continuing to improve practices on the cutting edge.
  6. World Class Customer Service
    De-escalation strategies are all about customer service. The more staff are equipped to recognize the different levels of escalation and to professionally and appropriately respond with a focus on collaboration and cooperation as much as possible, the higher the level of patient satisfaction.

    People want to be heard; people want to feel understood—even when they lack the skills to communicate their needs at times. Staff who are trained have an easier time staying calm and professional even when the person across from them is not. They are able to use their Empathic Listening skills to really understand what’s going on in a given situation so they can offer a reasonable, enforceable, and clear solution for the patient or their family members. They can enter every interaction with the goal being “let’s resolve this peacefully.”
  7. Staff Engagement and Wellness
    People enter the caring profession because they want to give back; because they want to be a part of something bigger than themselves; because they feel “called” to do so. Too many staff cannot uphold these seven elements because their employers don’t help them take care of themselves, and compassion fatigue sets in. If I have to consistently worry about my own safety, how can I possibly provide for the safety of others? If I am unsure or ill-equipped to handle violence and aggression in my workplace, how long will I stay if I encounter it?

Training is just one element of a comprehensive approach to identifying your organization as a Center of Excellence. But in this changing landscape, don’t you want to create excellence? CPI does, and so we subscribe to these values and we’re here to support you in doing so as well. 

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