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Handle combative patients correctly to prevent injuries

Combative patients are a serious risk to everyone in a hospital setting. From the paramedic who picks the patient up to the nurses and doctors working to help the patient, a combative patient can be truly dangerous.

Of course, not all patients are combative as a result of being in their right mind. A person on drugs might be paranoid. A person suffering from diabetes might become aggressive as a defensive mechanism. Medical personnel know this aggression isn't personal, but it is still dangerous.

You and your team may be at risk each time a patient fights you. A psychiatric patient might try to stop you from inserting a needle and take it from you, or they might use furniture in a room as a weapon. A child who is scared to go into surgery might bite or kick. Every patient poses a threat when they're combative, but you can take steps to handle the situation safely.

One group of paramedics discussed how they are not trained to handle combative situations other than to call for back up. Sometimes, that back up can take a long time to arrive, especially when they are a fair distance from a hospital. This discussion is one to consider carefully, because it is important for all hospital workers to have training to handle combative patients. They should know:

  • Whom to call when a patient is combative
  • The right medications or injections to use to calm an aggressive patient safely
  • The appropriate steps to take if they are assaulted or attacked by a patient
  • How to talk to paranoid, anxious or frightened patients

It may be best to speak with the patient using their name. This may help them associate you as someone who knows them or is there to help. Remember to speak softer than you think you should. People tend to yell or speak loudly in emergencies, but that only adds to the anxiety for a patient.

If it comes to it, and if you have people who can help around you, you may need to restrain a patient. There are physical and chemical restraints created to control combative patients, which is something else you should be trained on before using.

If you are attacked and end up with an injury, that's a situation that should be covered by your employer's workers' compensation coverage. Your job is dangerous, so that protection should be there for you.

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