Although hospitals are focused on safety, the CDC has noted a rise in workplace violence, with the greatest increases of violent events occurring against providers. We need more intensive deescalation training and awareness as the first-line response to potential violence and aggression in health care settings.
A three-year study in the American Journal of Nursing noted that 25% of nurses reported being assaulted by patients or patients’ family members.
At the UF Health Shands Psychiatric Hospital, our standardized de-escalation training model is dubbed “Handle with Care.” This model teaches staff how to handle disruptive and aggressive situations, emphasizing verbal de-escalation to reduce tension and create a calm and safe environment for everyone involved.
“With the ‘Handle with Care’ model, we downplay the physical aspect of de-escalation, putting the focus on how to talk to patients,” Repique said of the verbal versus physical tactics.
A recent situation involving an aggressive patient at the psychiatric hospital led to a nurse stepping in to sit down with a patient and tell them, “You are here with me. You are safe.” This action immediately defused the tension.
“That situation was an example of how we have to slow down, we have to take the time and show we care,” Harcourt said. “We’re instilling hope that whatever is going on in that moment, we will help you, you’re not alone.”
In doing so, the nurse created a calm, safe and compassionate environment in which the patient could relax and avoid physical harm.
Munson added, “As health care providers, we are not operating out of fear, but compassion. Compassion can always be felt — even by the aggressor — and that’s the model to operate on.”