Acts of violence can happen anywhere, anytime and as we know hospitals are unfortunately not immune. Just recently at a hospital in Houston a man shot and killed himself in his wife’s room, despite the fact the hospital has a strict ‘no gun’ policy. Thankfully no one else was hurt, but it does underscore the fact that hospital administrators face very real challenges trying to ensure the safety of patients and staff.
Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI), who has provided training and consulting in behavior management for over thirty years, offered a few strategies to consider for reducing violence in hospitals that are paraphrased below:
1) If you’re asked a challenging question, redirect or refocus the question. Even though some questions are asked simply to get information, others could be meant to challenge your authority. A useful approach would be to restate your request and to ignore the challenge – though not the person.
2) When you’re dealing with someone who needs to ‘vent’, if at all possible try and get them to discuss the issue someplace private. While allowing someone to vent can be a good way to de-escalate a situation, it could also frighten others in the area, as well as it is possible there could be bystanders who try to feed into the situation and/or egg the person on.
3) Work as a team with your colleagues. If you find yourself in a ‘power struggle’ situation with someone, sometimes a new face can bring a different approach to a challenging situation. Even if your colleague gives them the exact same response as you did, it sometimes will become acceptable when said by someone else.
4) Take every threat seriously and evaluate their validity. There’s no way to predict when someone might follow through on a threat, so ensure your hospital has very clear procedures in place in the event a threat is made, e.g. who staff should report a threat to, where should the threat be documented, etc.
5) To help you stay in control during a crisis situation, find positive ways to release negative energy you’ve absorbed during the day. Healthcare workers have a stressful job that requires coming to work every day mentally and physically prepared. By taking care of yourself, you’ll be able to control your own behavior better during a crisis.
While simply knowing how to defuse escalating behavior and recognize nonverbal signs of anger by themselves won’t eliminate hospital violence, in conjunction with other security measures they can certainly go a long way towards helping to prevent incidents from occurring.