The CBC Online news headline for December 8, 2014 reported “Penticton doctor ‘savagely assaulted’ by psychiatric patient.”
“The doctor is recovering in Kelowna Hospital with severe facial injuries, a broken jaw and other fractures, according to police.”
My empathy and best wishes for a quick recovery go out to the psychiatrist as he is known to me as is the location of the assault. Nobody should be injured in the act of performing their duties.
What concerns me is the media coverage for this unfortunate event. Would the same coverage be provided if it was a nurse or other healthcare professional that was assaulted? I don’t believe that it would be. Past experience has proven so.
For me it was quite poignant in that a few months ago I published a book that I had been writing for many years based on my experience working in the field of mental health/psychiatry. ‘PROtect Yourself! Empowering Tips & Techniques for Personal Safety: A Practical Violence Prevention Manual for Healthcare Workers.’
My impetus to write the book and publish was to try and do my part to reduce the pain and unnecessary suffering that can be experienced by a healthcare worker having experienced workplace violence. This is a subject that we need to keep front and center. While many would point their finger at the employers and place the blame on them, I think that everyone involved plays a role in making our workplaces safe.
Here is a short excerpt from the book. If you have comments please feel free to contact me.
Once upon a time it was safe to go to work. Maybe that was just a fairy tale because the times have certainly changed. Increased violence has become part of our everyday life be it at home or at work. We read about it daily in the newspaper and are bombarded with violent stories from the television and radio.
As a group, healthcare workers tend to view people as being basically “good.” However, reality shows us that even good people do bad things at times. Under the right circumstances [or the wrong, depending on your point of view] any of us can lose control and become aggressive. As healthcare workers we have tended to recognize violence as only arising from our patients.
A fellow worker, a manager, a client or their family or even a visitor can become potentially hazardous to us. The “bad guys” aren’t always strangers to us. Working in the health care field, we regularly come in contact with people from all walks of life. It seems a grim irony that caregivers ‑ people concerned with the welfare of others ‑ should daily face the possibility of violence at the hands of the very people they are there to help. Yet, increasing evidence of the extent of the problem is emerging.
PROtect Yourself! has evolved over the past 20 years or so by me, Rae Stonehouse RN. Years ago, while working in a mid-sized psychiatric hospital, by virtue of being a male nurse I was automatically a member of the “Goon Squad”, a non-flattering term used to describe the emergency response team. I will readily admit that for the first couple of years working in psychiatry I was terrified of having to intervene physically. I was a talker, not a fighter! Now that I reflect back to those days, I can’t say that I was all that comfortable handling verbal aggression directed at me either.
Fortunately for me, I had the opportunity to attend a week-long workshop entitled “Crisis Intervention” that was provided in‑house. Throughout this course I learned many self- defense and physical restraining techniques that I was able to utilize in my role as a psychiatric nurse. The most important lesson learned was that the best weapons that I possessed for self- defense purposes were my brain and my mouth. I left the workshop with a greater sense of self-confidence.
Over the years I have met and worked with many people who were confident in various aspects of their lives but were terrified when it came to intervening in a crisis where there was the likelihood that it may turn physical. Even the possibility of physical aggression would trigger a fear response. I have worked alongside colleagues who would “conveniently” lock themselves in the bathroom at the first sign of a potential crisis. Others have had an “emergency” phone call that needed their attention, away from the action.
I recall Mary, a fellow nurse, who was an avid sky diver. Skydiving would be an activity that I would only undertake if I was pushed out of the airplane against my will. When situations arose that required physical intervention with a disturbed patient, she was crippled with fear. After taking the Crisis Intervention program and with further on the job practice to hone her skills, Mary was able to overcome her fears of physically intervening and became an effective responder in a crisis.
PROtect Yourself! has been developed for all the Marys out there. PROtect Yourself! provides an integrative, non‑violent approach to dealing with physical aggression and verbal threat. Its method of information delivery is intended to help you develop greater awareness and vigilance, hone observational and judgment skills and to learn communication techniques to defuse potentially volatile situations. Physical interventions such as restraining techniques and break-away techniques may be mentioned throughout this manual but will not be expanded upon as they are beyond the scope of this manual.
The term “healthcare workers”, encompasses a large group of people, from nurses and nursing support staff to office staff, laundry, dietary and housekeeping. If you work with people then PROtect Yourself! is for you.
PROtect Yourself! is a practical “how to” manual that will enable you to ...
- assess and identify disturbed/aggressive behaviour
- provide effective therapeutic interventions for the benefit of your clients
- develop winning attitudes to prevent aggressive behaviour
- utilize communication & leadership techniques to avoid client escalation and prevent disturbed behavior
- recognize the effects of your body language in resolving a crisis
- identify the influence that health care staff have on violence by a client
- take a proactive approach in developing worksite violence prevention protocols
- recognize a bully at work and develop strategies to minimize their damage
- recognize and support a colleague that is experiencing the effects of a critical incident
If you have any friends or loved ones that work in any aspect of healthcare, do them a favour and pass the link on to them. www.Protectyourselfnow.ca