SWITCH BC revamps violence prevention training for people working in health-care settings
By Amy DoveNews health care hospital security switch bc
While Jason Green has always been aware of the potential for violence in his work, he’s never experienced the potential for harm as often as he has in the past few years.
Twelve years of working to deliver care on the streets and in homes in British Columbia have taught him that there are dangerous aspects to his role as a paramedic. Since the pandemic, this risk has increased substantially.
“From aggressive language to being pushed and shoved, the people I am helping are often resisting the care they need. I am verbally abused every day and physically abused several times a month,” Green says. “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, people have gotten meaner.”
His experience isn’t unique. On any given day in an emergency department, long-term care facility, or primary care clinic, people providing care encounter violence in the workplace.
“Violent incidents in health care aren’t new. What is new is the types of incidents we’re seeing more frequently. People are increasingly agitated and they’re taking their anger out on health-care workers and security professionals. This increase can be attributed to post-pandemic rage and a general decline in respectful public behaviour, but also to the increased need for earlier intervention and more robust mental health care,” says Victoria Schmid, SWITCH BC CEO.
“That’s why we are refreshing British Columbia’s Provincial Violence Prevention Curriculum for people working in health care and expanding it to security professionals in B.C. One important aspect of preventing harm from violent incidents is ensuring teams are trained in how to prevent escalation, to de-escalate when needed, and to remove themselves from potentially harmful situations.”
B.C.’s refreshed Provincial Violence Prevention Curriculum will update mandatory training for people working in health care to reflect current and diverse work environments, grounded firmly in cultural humility, diversity, trauma-informed understanding, and other best practices. It will also provide one province-wide program with expanded access to public and private care staff, physicians, nurses, contractors, security personnel and students.
“My partner is an ER nurse, so I know firsthand the impact that violence in health care has on the people who work in the sector and on their families,” Schmid says. “Because of this, one of the areas SWITCH BC is involved in that I’m most passionate about is our violence prevention work.”
The B.C. Ministry of Health is funding the new training program. SWITCH BC is collaborating with the Ministry and partners from healthcare unions, health authorities, health-care employers, WorkSafeBC, SafeCare BC, and other experts in the system on this work.
“We are committed to provincial solutions for health, safety and wellbeing that support the close to 330,000 health care workers across B.C.,” Schmid says. “It is so important to us in this work, that we collectively make the shift in recognizing security professionals as a vital part of health-care teams and we equip them to manage the unique situations in health care that require profound respect for patients, families, clients and co-workers.”
It is timely work. In 2020, WorkSafeBC reported 59 per cent of the total violence-related claims came from the health and social services sector. That means two-thirds of all the violence claims in B.C. are coming from a sector that represents 11 per cent of B.C.’s entire workforce.
“When we share the humbling statistics about violence in health care, most people are very surprised and very troubled, knowing the people who care for us face personal risk and potential harm on the job,” Schmid says. “Being a nurse or a care aide can be more dangerous than being a police officer.”
SWITCH BC is a new organization in the workplace health and safety space, and its name stands for Safety, Wellbeing, Innovation, Training and Collaboration in Health care. It originated out of 2019 collective bargaining conversations between the six health-care bargaining associations and the Ministry of Health in response to a need for a province-wide focus on worker safety in the health-care sector.
“While we’re new in this space, our team is made up of health and safety experts with years of knowledge and experience,” Schmid says. “Our strategic objectives are to promote and support safe workplaces across the health system by developing a culture of safety, and to develop and implement a provincial data system to drive improvement and innovation.”
For Green, ensuring the full team has all the tools they need to provide the best care can’t come soon enough.
“We need to shift back to a time when we thanked health-care teams,” he says. “To when we saw paramedics, health professionals, and the security teams that support them, as help.”
SWITCH BC is inviting people working in health care in B.C., including security professionals, to help support the violence prevention training program improvements which are expected to roll out in the fall of 2024.
People are invited to share ideas, ask questions, and stay connected to progress on the work through SWITCH BC’s online platform, Your Say. Visit yoursay.switchbc.ca to participate, and switchbc.ca to learn more about the organization.
Victoria Schmid is the CEO of SWITCH BC, an organization committed to improving the health, safety, and wellbeing of the more than 300,000 people working in B.C.’s healthcare system. She spoke at the Focus on Healthcare Security 2022 virtual summit last December. For privacy reasons, Jason Green’s name has been changed.
Amy Dove is the Communications and Engagement Advisor at SWITCH BC.
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