Healthcare Technology Featured Article

December 05, 2023

De-Escalation Techniques in Healthcare: A Comprehensive Guide

As violence becomes more prevalent in healthcare settings, it’s important to learn proper de-escalation techniques. This should always be the first response to any potential aggression or violence.

Healthcare professionals face challenging situations in the workplace every day. Anyone working in hospitals and other medical facilities encounters angry, hostile, or noncompliant patients. This undoubtedly adds more stress to an already difficult career.

Your response to these behaviors can play a pivotal role in preventing crisis situations. These de-escalation techniques can help stop things before they get out of control.

Know How to Spot the Early Warning Signs

Without de-escalation training, it may seem that aggressive behavior arises out of nowhere. Proper training in these techniques can help you find those little warning signs that an upset patient, family member, or even coworker is about to become a danger.

Aggression comes in different forms, and understanding those forms will help you know how to proceed. In doing so, you’ll be able to calm the person down instead of escalating the situation.

Take an Empathetic and Nonjudgmental Stance

When someone says or does something a bit unusual, don’t judge them or discredit their feelings. You must learn how to engage with empathetic listening. It starts by giving that person your undivided attention and listening to their feelings and what they have to say.

It takes practice to listen empathetically, show you are listening, and respond with positive nonverbal messages. Making eye contact and nodding your head are great nonverbal ways to let a patient know that you are taking in everything. Once they have finished speaking, restate and paraphrase using their words to ask for clarification to better understand.

Respect Personal Boundaries

When behavior is escalating, standing too close to a person could cause them to lash out. They may feel cornered and agitated. That’s why respecting personal space is important in healthcare settings. Allowing several feet between you can decrease their anxiety and keep them calmer. If you must approach them to administer medical care, state your purpose and narrate the steps you’re taking to mitigate their anxieties.

Don’t Rush Things

Patients and their families may need to make upsetting decisions in healthcare settings. If you had a big decision to make, you wouldn’t want to be rushed through it either. You must allow them time to process this information before making decisions.

Make Sure Your Nonverbal Actions Are Nonthreatening

When someone’s behavior begins to escalate, the way you use your nonverbals is imperative. Think of your hand gestures, movements, facial expressions, and the tone you use. Keep in mind that the more a person moves towards distress, the less they can process what you are saying.

You must speak to them in a relaxed, receptive, and nonthreatening manner. It requires patience, something that is critical in a crisis.

Establish Limits

Defensive patients, their family members, or even coworkers all need limits. You must be clear in setting those limits. They must also be easy to enforce and reasonable. 

Pay Attention to Feelings

Healthcare professionals always focus on the facts of the situation. It’s how you handle working in this type of environment. The way a patient feels is often the source of these escalating behaviors. It can be hard for some people to accurately express themselves in how they are feeling.

Help them by offering supportive responses to let them know you understand. This allows them to express their emotions more rationally while making it easier for you to provide medical care. Training yourself to make supportive responses rather than always sticking with factual ones will help mitigate the situation.

Ignore Challenges to Authority

Power struggles never end well, and when anyone is challenging your authority, you’ll need to learn to redirect them. You must steer them back to the current issue. Learning these methods can help you protect your mental well-being as well as anyone who is trying to create a power struggle.

Refrain from Overreacting

You can never control anyone else’s behavior, though you can surely control your own. Remember this as you respond to an escalating person by remaining calm and speaking professionally and rationally. It can only benefit you by taking a few deep breaths before responding.

Try to find your compassion. Many distressed behaviors are often caused by fear and anxiety. Repeat what the escalating person has said to understand where they are coming from.

Medical professionals are hardened by what they see each day. For the people you treat, this is new to them — and it can be scary. They may not know how to control their emotions in these moments, but you can diffuse things and restore calm.

Let Silences Occur

You shouldn’t keep rambling on when silences come up. You should let the silence sit — it will give the escalating person time to reflect on things. They’ll get the chance to take a few deep breaths of their own while they think things over.

Offer Positive Options

When someone is upset, they may not understand everything you say to them. Setting limits while giving them positive choices can help. Let them know each option they have and what the outcome could be, which gives them a feeling of control rather than being pushed into making a decision.

How to Start Learning De-Escalation Techniques for a Healthcare Setting

De-escalation training programs are the best way to get everyone in a healthcare setting on the same page. It can help the team work better together while everyone learns how to effectively defuse a conflict.

Every healthcare worker can benefit from this training since working with people is their core. Schedule a consultation to find out more about de-escalation training.

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