Tip of the Week: Security considerations for psychiatric patients

Hospital Safety Insider, January 6, 2011

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What do you do when your emergency department becomes dangerous because of a psychiatric patient? After the murder of a nurse at Napa State Hospital in San Francisco, the hospital wanted to buckle down on their safety procedures.

John White, CPP, CHPA, president and principal consultant for Protection Management, LLC, in Chico, CA, suggests a few different precautions that hospitals could take to care for a psychiatric patient. Briefings on Hospital Safety lists the precautions:

Alert security. Whether it’s the ambulance calling ahead or the front desk identifying patients who may be a danger to themselves or others, the security department should be involved from the moment that patient sets foot in the hospital.
Assign an officer to the patient. The officer’s job is to not only protect that person from others, but also to ensure that the patient does not leave the facility if he or she is a flight risk. Some states allow officers to use physical force to detain a patient; others require the officer to use verbal de-escalating techniques or the local police department, if necessary.
Ensure that an officer is always in the room with a healthcare professional. Security should be in the exam room to assist any staff members with restraining the patient or simply to offer a watchful eye.
Compartmentalize a dangerous situation. If the patient begins to demonstrate aggressive behavior, isolate him or her from other patients and staff members to prevent anyone else from getting pulled in.

Visit the Briefings on Hospital Safety archive to read more.

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