How P.E.I.'s health system is dealing with violent patients

Health PEI is implementing a new system to get better control of patients who are prone to be violent.

Violence happens daily in health-care system, says Health PEI

Some violent incidents are largely verbal, but others cause injuries that force the worker to take time of, says Health PEI. (John Panella/Shutterstock)

Health PEI is implementing a new system to get better control of patients who are prone to be violent.

Kelley Rayner, chair of workplace violence prevention working group for Health PEI, said patient violence is a daily occurrence in the Island's health-care system.

"Staff have been struck with objects, physically assaulted, punched, kicked, spit on," Rayner said.

"It's quite shocking, because you would think in a hospital you wouldn't see that type of behaviour, but people are sick, and sometimes when they're sick that type of behaviour comes out. We understand it's not intentional. It's because they're unwell."

Some staff are off work because of injuries suffered at the hands of patients, she said.

More than a warning

The new protocol, which should be fully implemented by the end of this month, will include orange dots being attached to a patient's chart — and in some cases on the door of their room — to flag staff about potentially violent behaviour.

The dots are not just a warning. The protocol includes care plans for potentially violent patients.

Conversations with violent patients can be difficult, says Kelley Rayner. (CBC)

"It would trigger the staff, if they're not familiar with the patient, to go and ask the nurses what's the plan for them. How should I approach them so that it's safe for the patient, it's safe for the staff," Rayner said.

The orange dots would only be applied after conversation with the patient, or with the patient's family if the patient has a cognitive impairment. Rayner said these conversations can be difficult, but Health PEI has a responsibility to provide a safe workplace.

It's a big change, said Rayner, but so far it appears the program will only apply to a small number of patients.

Evaluation of the program will begin as soon as it is fully implemented in February, she said.

With files from Laura Chapin