The vast majority of incidents of aggression within our hospitals are a symptom of the person’s mental health and/or addiction issue(s). These people are sick. They come to our facilities for help, to heal and to get better. It’s our job, to the best of our abilities, to provide care. It’s also our job – as healthcare workers “doing” protection – to support a safe environment that allows our clinical care partners to provide exceptional care.
Many of our clients suffering from mental health and/or addiction issues come from marginalised sections of society which, historically, have not had great experiences with law enforcement. If our goal in healthcare is to heal, then my question is: do we want to take a law enforcement approach by way of uniform, tools (baton, pepper spray, gun, etc.) and approach (i.e. arrest people)? Or do we want to take the approach of a caring, empathetic healthcare worker as part of the overall care team supporting the healing?
Can we combine the two? That, I think, is the challenge we face.
In Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada), I am ashamed to admit that we have one of the lowest socio-economic areas – the Downtown Eastside – in all of North America. The Downtown Eastside is a demographic of severe drug addiction that also attracts a large number of people suffering from mental health issues. St. Paul’s Hospital is the downtown core hospital that services this area and sees 70,000 ER visits annually. It also represents the highest ratio of physical aggression to ER visits of all 27 lower mainland (British Columbia) hospital ERs under our Lower Mainland Integrated Protection Services (IPS) programs jurisdiction.
So considering the above and using the data to drive our business, what did we do at St. Paul’s?
Working closely with clinical leadership we rolled out the Client Services Ambassador (CSA) – a security trained resource assigned to the ER. The CSA, uniformed in chinos and a polo shirt, is embedded as part of the ER multi-discipline team supporting our care philosophy. The CSA works with the ER team to recognise and diffuse aggressive behavior at its earliest stage by providing a proactive, customer service focused approach. Should the situation dictate, the CSA can call upon the regular security team to respond.
What impact did this have? I’ll be speaking about our experiences at the Improving Hospital Security conference this June.
Book your place at the event by April 22nd to save $300 on ticket prices.