Everyone has the right to a safe work environment. And that includes care-aides, nurses and staff who can sometimes face aggressive patients.
Situations vary, but range from patients in fear and pain with frustrated family members in hospitals to long-term care residents reeling from a loss of independence and possibly reduced cognitive factors.
These risk factors can all lead to an emotional crisis which can sometimes result in violence.
But some local staff are gaining the tools to better recognize concerns and address them, along with what to do when a situation gets out of hand.
SafeCareBC, a new provincial safety association, works with WorkSafe BC to reduce injury rates in the sector.
“Continuing care has one of the highest rates of injury claims of any other profession in B.C.” said David Hurford, SafeCare executive director.
Approximately 112,000 days are lost each year due to claims, which cost $23 million last year. It all only adds to the chronic staffing shortages.
“This also has a negative impact on the quality of residential care for seniors we serve,” said Hurford.
But as Steve Rookyard explained to a crowd of nearly 20 at Creekside Landing Wednesday, quality care doesn’t have to be affected, and workers don’t have to be injured if the proper steps are taken.
Facilitating the Safety in Senior’s Care workshop, Rookyard says there are four main components:
– de-escalation skills
– personal safety strategies for violence prevention
– behaviour care planning
“We want them (workers) to be able to recognize violence and aggression,” said Rookyard.
When a situation does get to a point that a worker feels uncomfortable, they are reminded that the best solution is to walk away.
“They’re not expected to put themselves in harm’s way for this job.”
Unfortunately, many feel it is their job.
In fact, out of all of the participants, not one said they have ever walked away from a violent situation.
“A lot of staff feel they have to (deal with it),” said one care aid.
Meanwhile workers are reminded that they can prevent these situations from arising by being pro-active. Noticing when a person’s body language and tone show signs of upset or anger gives workers a chance to de-escalate the situation.
For example, a worker who sees a patient who is impatiently waiting to be assisted may not have the time at that moment to help them, but can often keep them calmer by explaining that they are busy at the moment but will be with them in five, 10 or 15 minutes, and keeping them informed so they don’t feel forgotten.
“Responding appropriately to somebody who is angry or upset may add to de-escalation,” said Rookyard.
Heritage Square nurse manager Arlette Tung understands the importance of addressing patients before they get aggressive or violent.
“We want to stop it before it gets there. De-escalate it before it gets there by proper listening skills and diversion.”
Tung and many of those attending the workshop will be sharing their newly learned skills with their staff to create safer work environments.
“You can never know enough about violence,” said Tung.