De-escalating potential conflict situations when patients are upset or angry is a skill all frontline healthcare professionals need.
Counties Manukau Health took de-escalation education to the wards during Patient Experience Week with a series of patient communication scenario role plays.
Three different role plays were presented for staff and students of five wards. Each role play portrayed a realistic encounter between a healthcare professional and an angry or upset patient or family/whaanau member.
The purpose of the role plays was to teach staff the best approach to dealing with a potential conflict situation.
“It’s about being empathetic and trying to understand the situation from the patient’s point of view,” said Haidee St. John, Associate Director of Allied Health for Occupational Therapy and star of all three role plays.
“Being defensive, and trying to justify what’s happened to upset a person, is a common reaction when a patient is upset. But that’s not the right approach. Instead, staff should start by acknowledging the person’s feelings. Talk through what’s upset them, apologise and ask what you can do to help them. If they ask for something that’s not possible, make a suggestion of your own.”
“Remember that the amount of personal space someone needs when they’re upset or angry expands. Respect that and don’t try to touch them. Also, when a person is very emotionally aroused they stop hearing words. Use body language and tone to demonstrate empathy.”
The role plays were well attended and appreciated by staff.
“It was quite real,” said Maryann Hoskins, RN. “I learned not to be defensive or try to solve the problem straight off. Listen through and then look at how to solve it when the patient is ready.”
The role plays formed part of Patient Experience Week 2016, a programme of activities held between the 7th and 11th of March that focussed on patients, whaanau (family) and staff working together to improve services and care delivery.