Using respectful care to disarm aggression

Knowing how to manage aggression is important in any profession – particularly in the health care setting. That’s where Calvary Mater Newcastle’s emergency medicine staff specialist, Dr Michael Downes, and emergency department registered nurse, David Fitzgerald, come in.

The Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) recently held their winter symposium in Newcastle, with health professionals from across Australia and New Zealand travelling to the Hunter for the four day conference.

Toxicology was one of the main topics of the conference, with Michael, David and other Mater staff presenting on management of the poisoned patient, cardiotoxic poisoning, plus snakebite and envenoming. In addition, Michael and David led a two hour interactive session on managing the agitated, commonly intoxicated patient in the emergency department.

With most of the wider team having presented on the topic previously, this was the first time the group have performed a live simulation – professional actors, paramedics and all.

“The simulation proved to be engaging and stimulating for the participants and was also a lot of fun to present. Plus, the addition of paramedics for the first time enhanced the multi-disciplinary nature of the presentation,” Michael said.

With aggression becoming an ever increasing challenge in the hospital setting, Michael and David are firm believers that skills in managing conflict are crucial.

“The more skilled our workers are in early identification of potential risks and conflict resolution, the better our patient-centred care will be, while minimising the impact on staff.”

As for the main take home message for the audience?

“Focus on person-centred care and treat the agitated patient with respect,” David said.

“The management of an agitated patient should be treated like any critical situation – with an organised, collaborative, team-based approach.”