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The best de-escalation training for healthcare workers

Handsome doctors - emergency preparedness

It’s Thursday night and you thumb through your Hulu feed to find that medical drama you’ve been watching for years. Cue a handsome doctor walking down the hall of a hospital when suddenly a patient appears wielding a scalpel they found lying nearby. The patient is thrashing their new-found weapon in every direction. More attractive doctors arrive and the music darkens until finally one doctor says: “Let’s talk about this.”

It’s a scene we’ve seen repeated in dramas and movies. A disgruntled former employee returns seeking revenge or a patient is misdiagnosed and isn’t on the proper medication. If it’s not that, then an employee has problems with a lover and breaks down into self-harm.

In every instance, de-escalation techniques are used on TV and in real life, albeit with a bit more drama for audiences on TV. For healthcare workers in all sectors, the risk of violence is growing. But the highest risk is to nurses and other frontline patient caretakers, particularly in the ER, geriatrics, and psychiatric settings.

Despite how effective some de-escalation techniques appear on TV, there is no significant research in real life about their efficacy.

Vantage Point offers de-escalation training, but there is no known single best practice for de-escalation. So our goal is to train people to:

  • Prevent violent behavior
  • Maintain safety
  • Reduce anger and frustration
  • Help people develop a sense of hope and security

Workplaces have been doing a form of de-escalation training for years under the name of “conflict resolution” or “crisis management”. Vantage Point’s own de-escalation training takes things a step further and is designed to help teams identify instability in their environment, prevent it, and know how to handle it in their own best defense if the situation worsens. This “Run, Hide, Fight” paradigm is law enforcement’s go-to technique for civilians when a situation escalates to violence or a weapon.

For healthcare workers who are sometimes required to go into a situation where physical force is necessary, like securing a patient with hand restraints, we train people to use positive reinforcement through the interaction. This includes affirming a patient’s problems, setting clear limits, respecting the patient, and remaining calm above all else.

Further, VPC trains people to recognize assets and hazards in their environment, how to secure their area if they need to shelter in place, and techniques for escaping if an opportunity to do so arises.