How to suppress patient violence in healthcare

Healthcare workers all over the world are more likely to experience violence than any other profession. In fact, being a paramedic was recently found to be one of the most dangerous jobs in the UK, with a reported 2,993 attacks on paramedics reported every year.

Violence comes in many forms, from verbal and physical attacks by patients, to attacks from visiting family members. Physical violence is a vague term that covers spitting, biting, hair pulling and any other form of physical contact that is meant to inflict some sort of harm.

Violence could also include unwanted sexual advances, insulting gestures, and threatening body language. In a worldwide study by the National Library of Medicine in 2020, verbal abuse was discovered to be the most common form of non-physical violence, followed by threats, and sexual harassment.

Where does violence occur?

Violence in healthcare could occur in many different settings, from mental health facilities to hospital A and E departments and even residential care facilities. However, the highest incidences reported are from inpatient psychiatric facilities and emergency departments.

In fact, information from 131 psychiatric wards across England and Wales discovered that the most extensive evidence of aggression comes from psychiatric wards, with around 70% of assaults occurring in the mental health sector.

What causes patients to become aggressive?

Violence in healthcare is a worldwide issue with many underlying causes, including biological factors, underlying pathology, medications, alcohol, drugs, psychiatric conditions and emotional state. Here are some of the risk factors for aggressive behavior:

  • History of violence
  • History of early aggression
  • Poor behavioural control
  • Social cognitive deficits
  • Low IQ
  • Attention deficits
  • Learning disorders
  • Involvement with drugs, alcohol or tobacco
  • High emotional distress

Unfortunately, aggression is often a natural response to emotional distress, pain and fear. Violence can occur because a patient feels that their family member has been failed, for example, or it can fester because a patient is feeling uncomfortable, and they can’t verbalise their discomfort.

Who is at risk from aggressive behaviour?

With a shortage of staff widespread in the NHS, and services constantly being cut, the risk of patient annoyance and aggression is only getting larger. There are many who are at risk, including employees, visitors and users of services. Employees involved in the following experience an increased risk of violence or aggressive behaviour:

  • Providing or withholding a service
  • Handling medication or valuables
  • Working within the community
  • Working alone or after normal hours
  • Exercising authority
  • Working with emotionally or mentally unstable patients
  • Working with those under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Working with people under stress

Despite health and safety laws, many incidents of violence or aggression go under-reported. Unfortunately, healthcare workers assume and accept that this type of behaviour is simply a part of the job.

Nurses and midwives are more likely to experience violence and aggression from patients and colleagues than any other staff. Employees at inpatient geriatric care units also run a higher risk of experiencing verbal aggression.

Why is violence suppression important?

Healthcare staff are one of the most likely groups to experience aggression and violence in the workplace. In fact, 67% of patient-facing HNS workers say they have experienced aggressive and violent behaviour from a patient every year, which is an average of 200 attacks per day.

Since many patients can arrive at hospitals in fear and pain, this sort of behaviour can be common. Calming violence and helping to reduce feelings of anxiety and aggression can help protect the psychological and physical wellbeing of both patients and staff. It can also help people feel more motivated at work and therefore improve the quality of care that other patients receive.

How can nature help reduce violence?

It’s well-known that immersing yourself in nature can have a whole host of physical and mental wellbeing benefits. It can improve your mood, help you feel more relaxed, improve your physical health and reduce feelings of stress, anxiety and anger. It’s also been found to have a significant impact on behavior and aggression.

Studies have shown that nature can help reduce violent crime, revive self-control and dial down intense feelings that can lead to violence and aggression. Introducing nature into environments that may otherwise be stressful or frightening, such as a clinical environment, can create a more positive environment for patients and staff.

Nature can have profound physiological benefits that could improve patient comfort levels and help them heal quicker. Studies have shown that time in nature can lower blood pressure, stress levels, nervous system arousal and enhance immune system function. In terms of mood, it can also have a profound impact on self-esteem, anxiety and cultivate positive feelings. 

How can Sky Inside windows and ceilings help with patient aggression?

Being surrounded by nature can have a significant, positive impact on mental health and wellbeing. However, it’s hard for patients to experience the wellbeing effects of nature while they’re in a healthcare environment.

Scientifically proven to promote relaxation and reduce feelings of anxiety, digital windows and sky ceilings can replicate the therapeutic benefits of stepping into the natural world, in any clinical environment. Here are some of the ways that Sky Inside products can benefit patients in clinical settings:

  • Reduced aggression
  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Improved mood
  • Support with healing
  • Improved sleep
  • Reduced signs of delirium

Visiting a hospital can be a stressful and uncomfortable experience. Patients can be confused, in pain, delirious and prone to angry outbursts, which creates risk for healthcare staff and other patients. By installing high quality, powerful, lifelike digital sky windows and ceilings, you can harness the power of positive distraction and create a safer environment for your patients and staff.

Read real-life stories of how Sky Inside products have improved the experience for patients and medical staff all over the country